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Electrophysiological correlates of the cognitive control processes underpinning mixing and switching costs

  • Autori: Tarantino, V.; Mazzonetto, I.; Vallesi, A.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2016
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
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Typically, in task-switching contexts individuals are slower and less accurate when repeating a task in mixed blocks compared to single-task blocks (mixing cost) and when switching to a new task compared to repeating a previous one (switch cost). Previous research has shown that distinct electrophysiological correlates underlie these two phenomena. However, this evidence is not a consistent result. The goal of this study was to better characterize differences between the control processes involved in mixing and switch costs. To this aim, we examined event-related potentials (ERPs) evoked during a cued task-switching experiment. In order to minimize the confounding effects of cognitive demands unrelated to task-switching, we asked participants to shift between two simple tasks (a letter identity task and a letter position task). The mixing cost was defined, in terms of ERPs, by contrasting repeat and single-task trials, whereas the ERP switch cost was obtained from the comparison of switch and repeat trials. Cue-locked ERPs showed that the mixing cost was mediated by two sustained components, an early posterior positivity and a late anterior negativity. On the other hand, the switch cost was associated with two early phasic positive components, one principally distributed over centro-parietal sites and the other located over left posterior sites. In target-locked ERPs the mixing cost was expressed by a frontal positivity, whereas the switch cost was expressed by a reduced parietal P3b. Overall, the results extend previous findings by providing elucidating ERP evidence on distinct proactive and reactive control processes involved in mixing and switch costs.