Functional Dissociation of Latency-Variable, Stimulus- and Response-Locked Target P3 Sub-components in Task-Switching

Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Feb 20;12:60. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00060. eCollection 2018.


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 (400-1,200 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: P300; cognitive control; event-related potentials (ERP); single-trial EEG analysis; target detection; task-switching.