Pre-stimulus EEG effects related to response speed, task switching and upcoming response hand

Biol Psychol. 2006 Apr;72(1):15-34. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.05.005. Epub 2005 Oct 5.


The task-switching paradigm provides an opportunity to study whether oscillatory relations in neuronal activity are involved in switching between and maintaining task sets. The EEG of subjects performing an alternating runs [Rogers, R.D., Monsell, S., 1995. Costs of a predictable switch between simple cognitive tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 124, 207-231] task-switching task was analyzed using event-related potentials, the lateralized readiness potential, instantaneous amplitude and the phase-locking value [Lachaux, J.P., Rodriguez, E., Martinirie, J., Varela, F.J., 1999. Measuring phase synchrony in brain signals. Human Brain Mapping 8, 194-208]. The two tasks differed in the relevant modality (visual versus auditory) and the hand with which responses were to be given. The mixture model [de Jong, R., 2000. An intention driven account of residual switch costs. In: Monsell, S., Driver, J. (Eds.), Attention and Performance XVII: Cognitive Control. MIT Press, Cambridge] was used to assign pre-stimulus switch probabilities to switch trials based on reaction time; these probabilities were used to create a fast-slow distinction between trials on both switch and hold trials. Results showed both time- and time-frequency-domain effects, during the intervals preceding stimuli, of switching versus maintenance, response speed of the upcoming stimulus, and response hand. Of potential importance for task-switching theory were interactions between reaction time by switch-hold trial type that were found for a frontal slow negative potential and the lateralized readiness potential during the response-stimulus interval, indicating that effective preparation for switch trials involves different anticipatory activity than for hold trials. Theta-band oscillatory activity during the pre-stimulus period was found to be higher when subsequent reaction times were shorter, but this response speed effect did not interact with trial type. The response hand of the upcoming task was associated with lateralization of pre-stimulus mu- and beta-band amplitude and, specifically for switch trials, beta-band phase locking.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reaction Time*