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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00060

Functional dissociation of latency-variable, stimulus- and response-locked target P3 sub-components in task-switching

  • 1School of Psychological Science, University of Western Australia, Australia
  • 2University of the Balearic Islands, Spain

Cognitive control warrants efficient task performance in dynamic and changing environments through adjustments in executive attention, stimulus and response selection. The well-known P300 component of the human event-related potential (ERP) has long been proposed to index “context-updating” –critical for cognitive control– in simple target detection tasks. However, task switching ERP studies have revealed both target P3 (300-350 ms) and later sustained P3-like potentials (400-1200 ms) to first targets ensuing transition cues, although it remains unclear whether these target P3-like potentials also reflect context updating operations. To address this question, we applied novel single-trial EEG analyses – residue iteration decomposition (RIDE) – in order to disentangle target P3 sub-components in a sample of 22 young adults while they either repeated or switched (updated) task rules. The rationale was to revise the context updating hypothesis of P300 elicitation in the light of new evidence suggesting that “the context” consists of not only the sensory units of stimulation, but also associated motor units, and intermediate low- and high-order sensorimotor units, all of which may need to be dynamically updated on a trial by trial basis. The results showed functionally distinct target P3-like potentials in stimulus-locked, response-locked, and intermediate RIDE component clusters overlying parietal and frontal regions, implying multiple functionally distinct, though temporarily overlapping context updating operations. These findings support a reformulated version of the context updating hypothesis, and reveal a rich family of distinct target P3-like sub-components during the reactive control of target detection in task-switching, plausibly indexing the complex and dynamic workings of frontoparietal cortical networks subserving cognitive control.

Keywords: cognitive control, event-related potentials (ERP), P300, single-trial EEG analysis, target detection, task-switching

Received: 08 Nov 2017; Accepted: 02 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Camillo Porcaro, Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione (ISTC) - CNR, Italy

Reviewed by:

Bruno Kopp, Hannover Medical School, Germany
Marco Steinhauser, Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Brydges and Barceló. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Christopher R. Brydges, University of Western Australia, School of Psychological Science, 35 Stirling Highway, Perth, WA 6009, Crawley, Australia,
Dr. Francisco Barceló, University of the Balearic Islands, Ctra. Valldemossa km 7,5, Palma, Majorca, 07122, Spain,