Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Interference Resolution: Insights from a Meta-Analysis of Neuroimaging Tasks

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Interference Resolution: Insights from a Meta-Analysis of Neuroimaging Tasks

Article excerpt

A quantitative meta-analysis was performed on 47 neuroimaging studies involving tasks purported to require the resolution of interference. The tasks included the Stroop, flanker, go/no-go, stimulus-response compatibility, Simon, and stop signal tasks. Peak density-based analyses of these combined tasks reveal that the anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, posterior parietal cortex, and anterior insula may be important sites for the detection and/or resolution of interference. Individual task analyses reveal differential patterns of activation among the tasks. We propose that the drawing of distinctions among the processing stages at which interference may be resolved may explain regional activation differences. Our analyses suggest that resolution processes acting upon stimulus encoding, response selection, and response execution may recruit different neural regions.

The need to select information among competing alternatives is ubiquitous. Oftentimes, successful cognition depends on the ability to focus resources on goal-relevant information while filtering out or inhibiting irrelevant information. How selective attention operates and whether and how irrelevant information is inhibited or otherwise filtered out has been a major focus of research since the inception of experimental psychology. For the past 15 years, cognitive neuroscientists have used neuroimaging to uncover the brain mechanisms underlying the processes responsible for handling irrelevant information. Much of this research has used variants of classic cognitive interference resolution tasks, each different in its superficial characteristics but sharing the common requirement to resolve conflict. What have we learned from this large corpus of data?

Examining the multitude of studies focusing on interference resolution tells an extremely varied story. Figure 1A A shows a plot ofthe peaks of activation of 47 studies that purport to examine interference resolution (see the studies listed in Table 1). Ostensibly, there appears to be little consistency in these data. Several factors may be contributing to the massive interstudy variance. First, Figure 1A A includes activations from different tasks, subjects, equipment, scanning parameters, and statistical analyses. If we constrain our focus to just one task, however, the activations do not appear to be much more consistent. Figure 1 B shows the activations arising just from the Stroop task (Stroop, 1935), and these do not appear any more orderly. Indeed, the variability among the reported peaks across all interference resolution tasks corroborates behavioral findings that correlations in performance among different interference resolution tasks are low (Kramer, Humphrey, Larish, Logan, & Strayer, 1994; Shilling, Chetwynd, & Rabbitt, 2002). Indeed, even simple changes in task parameters appear to produce very different results (e.g., de Zubicaray, Andrew, Zelaya, Williams, & Dumanoir, 2000; MacLeod, 1991). It seems clear that understanding interference resolution will take deeper analytic methods that interrogate possible strategic and mechanistic differences. Some researchers have attempted to examine the neural signatures of various interference resolution tasks within the same subjects to uncover whether any consistency can be found (Fan, Flombaum, McCandliss, Thomas, & Posner, 2003; Liu, Banich, Jacobson, & Tanabe, 2004; Peterson et al., 2002; Wager et al., 2005). These efforts have revealed that activations in different tasks overlap in a number of regions but that there are also regions unique to one task or another. What underlies these commonalities and differences?

At this point, there have been a sufficient number of studies of interference resolution to begin to answer these questions. Here, we will attempt to sift through the interstudy variance in the interference resolution literature and pick out the consistencies among studies and tasks. …

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