Reaction time-related activity reflecting periodic, task-specific cognitive control

Behav Brain Res. 2016 Jan 1;296:100-108. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.08.020. Epub 2015 Aug 28.


Reaction time (RT) is associated with increased amplitude of the Blood Oxygen-Level Dependent (BOLD) response in cognitive control regions. The current study examined whether the Primary Condition (PC) effect and RT-BOLD effect both reflect the same cognitive control processes. In addition, RT-BOLD effects were examined in two Go/No-go tasks with different demands to determine whether RT-related activity is task-dependent, reflecting the recruitment of task-specific cognitive processes. Data simulations showed that RT-related activity could be distinguished from that of the primary condition if it is mean-centered. In that case, RT-related activity reflects periodically-engaged processes rather than "time-on-task" (ToT). RT-related activity was mostly distinct from that of the primary Go contrast, particularly for the perceptual decision task. Therefore, RT effects can reflect additional cognitive processes that are not captured by the PC contrast consistent with a periodic-engagement account. RT-BOLD effects occurred in a separate set of regions for the two tasks. For the task requiring a perceptual decision, RT-related activity occurred within occipital and posterior parietal regions supporting visual attention. For the task requiring a working memory decision, RT-related activity occurred within fronto-parietal regions supporting the maintenance and retrieval of task representations. The findings suggest that RT-related activity reflects task-specific processes that are periodically-engaged, particularly during less demanding tasks.

Keywords: Attention; Cognitive control; Reaction times; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult