Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Is Conflict Monitoring Supramodal? Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Cognitive Control Processes in an Auditory Stroop Task

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Is Conflict Monitoring Supramodal? Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Cognitive Control Processes in an Auditory Stroop Task

Article excerpt

Abstract The electrophysiological correlates of conflict processing and cognitive control have been well characterized for the visual modality in paradigms such as the Stroop task. Much less is known about corresponding processes in the auditory modality. Here, electroencephalographic recordings of brain activity were measured during an auditory Stroop task, using three different forms of behavioral response (overt verbal, covert verbal, and manual), that closely paralleled our previous visual Stroop study. As was expected, behavioral responses were slower and less accurate for incongruent than for congruent trials. Neurally, incongruent trials showed an enhanced fronto-central negative polarity wave (Ninc), similar to the N450 in visual Stroop tasks, with similar variations as a function of behavioral response mode, but peaking ~150 ms earlier, followed by an enhanced positive posterior wave. In addition, sequential behavioral and neural effects were observed that supported the conflictmonitoring and cognitive adjustment hypothesis. Thus, while some aspects of the conflict detection processes, such as timing, may be modality dependent, the general mechanisms would appear to be supramodal.

Keywords Auditory . Stroop . Conflict . EEG . Incongruency

Introduction

The study of cognitive control and conflict monitoring has played a major role in cognitive neuroscience in the last decade, with a wealth of new data coming from functional neuroimaging, electrophysiology, and lesion studies (see Mansouri, Tanaka, & Buckley, 2009, for a review).Whereas in daily life, sensory stimuli that guide behavioral responses belong to multiple modalities, much of our knowledge about cognitive control processes derives from studies investigating stimulus conflict within the visual modality. Paradigms such as the Stroop (Stroop, 1935) and flanker (Erikson & Erikson, 1974) tasks have been extensively used to examine both behavioral and underlying neural mechanisms of the processing of visual stimulus conflict. Despite this wealth of studies, there is still much debate about the specific processes involved in conflict detection and resolution. In addition, due to the focus on conflict processing in the visual modality, the generalizability across modalities and tasks of the reported findings is not well characterized.

Behaviorally, the visual Stroop paradigm (Stroop, 1935) has been studied for decades. The causes for the observed behavioral and neural effects have been considered almost exclusively within the visual domain, leading to various accounts for visual cognitive control. In its classic form, participants are visually presented with a color word (e.g., red) and are asked to report the color of the font, which can be either congruent or incongruent with the meaning of the word. According to an early popular account, word reading is relatively automatic and rapid. When the word meaning and font color do not match, additional processing is required to resolve associated cognitive conflict because of the need to select the appropriate response (to the font color) and suppress the alternative and competing response (to color word meaning; Posner & Snyder, 1975). Consistently, participants are slower and less accurate to respond to incongruent than to congruent color words (for review see Macleod, 1991). Computational models have been developed to explain the observed behavioral patterns, in terms of the relative strengths or speed of processing of the different stimulus inputs (e.g., Botvinick, Braver, Barch, Carter, & Cohen, 2001). In behavioral studies, researchers have pursued various approaches to tease apart the underlying conflict processes, including manipulating the stimulus onset asynchrony and/or the location of the relevant and irrelevant stimuli (Appelbaum, Meyerhoff, & Woldorff, 2009; M. O. Glaser & Glaser, 1982; W. R. Glaser & Dungelhoff, 1984; W. R. Glaser & Glaser, 1989; Lu & Proctor, 2001; Weekes & Zaidel, 1996). …

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