Research studying attention and gait stability has suggested the process of recovering gait stability requires attentional resources, but the effect of performing a secondary task on stability during obstacle avoidance is poorly understood. Using a dual-task paradigm, the present experiment investigated the extent to which young adults are able to respond to a secondary auditory Stroop task (requiring executive attentional network resources) concurrently with obstacle crossing during gait as compared to performing unobstructed walking or sitting (control task). Our results demonstrated that as the level of difficulty in the postural task increased, there was a significant reduction in verbal response time from congruent to incongruent conditions in the Stroop task, but no differences in gait parameters, indicating that these postural tasks require attention, and that young adults use a strategy of modulating the auditory Stroop task performance while keeping stable gait performance under the dual-task situations. Our findings suggest the existence of a hierarchy of control within both postural task (obstacle avoidance requires the most information processing resources) and dual-task (with gait stability being a priority) conditions.
A growing body of literature provides evidence for the prophylactic influence of cardiorespiratory fitness on cognitive decline in older adults. This study examined the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and recruitment of the neural circuits involved in an attentional control task in a group of healthy older adults. Employing a version of the Stroop task, we examined whether higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with an increase in activation in cortical regions responsible for imposing attentional control along with an up-regulation of activity in sensory brain regions that process task-relevant representations. Higher fitness levels were associated with better behavioral performance and an increase in the recruitment of prefrontal and parietal cortices in the most challenging condition, thus providing evidence that cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with an increase in the recruitment of the anterior processing regions. There was a top-down modulation of extrastriate visual areas that process both task-relevant and task-irrelevant attributes relative to the baseline. However, fitness was not associated with differential activation in the posterior processing regions, suggesting that fitness enhances attentional function by primarily influencing the neural circuitry of anterior cortical regions. This study provides novel evidence of a differential association of fitness with anterior and posterior brain regions, shedding further light onto the neural changes accompanying cardiorespiratory fitness.
cardiorespiratory fitness; Stroop task; cognitive and attentional control
Attentional models of psychopathy hold that psychopathic individuals fail to process information that conflicts with goal-directed behavior. However, they display normal interference on color-word Stroop tasks. To determine whether psychopathic individuals’ attention deficits are specific to conditions associated with the anterior cingulate (ACC) conflict monitoring system, we administered a Stroop task with a mostly-congruent condition associated with ACC activation, and a mostly-incongruent condition that is not, to 128 criminal offenders assessed for psychopathy using Hare’s (2003) PCL-R. Despite replicating previous condition Effects associated with differential ACC activation (Carter et al., 2000), psychopathic offenders and controls performed very similarly in both conditions. Results do not support an association between ACC-related deficits in conflict monitoring and the attention deficits of psychopathic offenders.
Psychopathy; Conflict monitoring; Anterior cingulate cortex
We combined measures from event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and cognitive performance (visual search response time) to test the hypotheses that differences between younger and older adults in top-down (goal-directed) attention would be related to cortical activation, and that white matter integrity as measured by DTI (fractional anisotropy, FA) would be a mediator of this age-related effect. Activation in frontal and parietal cortical regions was overall greater for older adults than for younger adults. The relation between activation and search performance supported the hypothesis of age differences in top-down attention. When the task involved top-down control (increased target predictability), performance was associated with frontoparietal activation for older adults, but with occipital (fusiform) activation for younger adults. White matter integrity (FA) exhibited an age-related decline that was more pronounced for anterior brain regions than for posterior regions, but white matter integrity did not specifically mediate the age-related increase in activation of the frontoparietal attentional network.
Aging; Neuroimaging; White matter; Brain activation; Fractional anisotropy; Region of interest; Top-down processing; Visual search; Perception; Cognition; Response time
Individuals who abuse methamphetamine (MA) perform at levels below those of healthy controls on tests that require cognitive control. As cognitive control deficits may influence the success of treatment for addiction, we sought to help clarify the neural correlates of this deficit. MA-dependent (n=10, abstinent 4–7 days) and control subjects (n=18) performed a color-word Stroop task, which requires cognitive control, during functional MRI (fMRI). The task included a condition in which participants were required to respond to one stimulus dimension while ignoring another conflicting dimension, and another condition without conflict. We compared the groups on performance and neural activation in the two conditions. MA-dependent subjects made more errors and responded more slowly than controls. Controlling for response times in the incongruent condition, voxel-wise mixed effects analyses (whole-brain corrected) demonstrated that MA-dependent subjects had less activation than control subjects in the right inferior frontal gyrus, supplementary motor cortex/anterior cingulate gyrus and the anterior insular cortex during the incongruent condition only. MA-dependent subjects did not exhibit greater activation in any brain region in either of the Stroop conditions. These preliminary findings suggest that hypofunction in cortical areas that are important for executive function underlies cognitive control deficits associated with MA dependence.
Methamphetamine; Stroop; fMRI; cognitive control; prefrontal cortex; insula
Tasks involving conflict are widely used to study executive attention. In the flanker task, a target stimulus is surrounded by distracting information that can be congruent or incongruent with the correct response. Developmental differences in the time course of brain activations involved in conflict processing were examined for 22 four year old children and 18 adults. Subjects performed a child-friendly flanker task while their brain activity was registered using a high-density electroencephalography system.
General differences were found in the amplitude and time course of event-related potentials (ERPs) between children and adults that are consistent with their differences in reaction time. In addition, the congruency of flankers affected both the amplitude and latency of some of the ERP components. These effects were delayed and sustained for longer periods of time in the children compared to the adults.
These differences constitute neural correlates of children's greater difficulty in monitoring and resolving conflict in this and similar tasks.
Methamphetamine (MA) abuse is associated with neurotoxicity to frontostriatal brain regions with concomitant deleterious effects on cognitive processes. Deficits in behavioral control are thought to be one contributing factor to the sustainment of addictive behaviors in chronic MA abuse.
In order to examine patterns of behavioral control relevant to addiction, we employed a fast-event related fMRI design to examine trial to trial reaction time (RT) adjustments in 12 chronic MA abusers who met DSM-IV criteria for MA dependence and 16 non-substance abusing controls. A variant of the Stroop task was employed to contrast the groups on error rates, RT Stroop conflict effect and the level of trial-to-trial adjustments seen after incongruent trials.
The MA abusers exhibited reduced RT adjustments along with reduced activation in the right prefrontal cortex compared to controls on conditions that measured the ability to use exposure to conflict situations (i.e., conflict trials) to regulate behavior. MA abusers did not differ from controls on accuracy rates or within-trial Stroop conflict effects.
The observed deficits in trial to trial RT adjustments suggest that the ability to adapt a behavioral response based on prior experience may be compromised in MA abusers. Such adjustments are critical to everyday functioning and deficits in modifying behavior based on prior events may reflect a key deficit that contributes to maladaptive drug seeking behavior.
Methamphetamine; prefrontal; attention; fMRI; imaging
Performance on traditional selective attention tasks, like the Stroop and flanker protocols, is subject to modulation by trial history, whereby the magnitude of congruency (or conflict) effects is often found to decrease following an incongruent trial compared to a congruent one. These “congruency sequence effects” (CSEs) typically appear to reflect a mesh of memory- and attention-based processes. The current study aimed to shed new light on the nature of the attention-based contribution to CSEs, by characterizing the shape of the CSE time-course while controlling for mnemonic influences. Existing attention-based accounts of CSEs are either ambiguous in their predictions of CSE time-courses, or predict CSEs to persist or grow over the post-stimulus/response interval in anticipation of an upcoming stimulus. We gauged CSE time-courses by systematically varying inter-stimulus (Experiment 1) and response-to-stimulus (Experiment 2) intervals across a wide temporal range, in a face–word Stroop task. In spite of an exponential increase in the likelihood of stimulus appearance with increasing interval duration (i.e., an exponential hazard function), results from both experiments showed CSEs to be most pronounced at the shortest intervals, to quickly decay in magnitude with increasing interval length, and to be absent at longer intervals. These data refute the idea that attentional contributions to CSEs remain static over post-stimulus/response intervals and are incompatible with the notion that CSEs reflect expectation-guided preparatory biasing in anticipation of a forthcoming stimulus. The data are compatible, however, with the notion that attentional contributions to CSEs reflect a short-lived, phasic enhancement of attentional set in reaction to processing conflict.
cognitive control; congruency sequence effect; conflict adaptation; attention; expectation
A rapid event-related fMRI arrow flanker task was used to study aging-associated decline in executive functions related to interference resolution. Older adults had more difficulty responding to Incongruent cues during the flanker task compared to the young adults; the response time difference between the Incongruent and Congruent conditions in the older group was over 50% longer compared to the young adults. In the frontal regions, differential activation (“Incongruent – Congruent” conditions) was observed in the inferior and middle frontal gyri in within-group analyses for both groups. However, the cluster was smaller in the older group and the centroid location was shifted by 19.7 mm. The left superior and medial frontal gyri also appeared to be specifically recruited by older adults during interference resolution, partially driven by errors. The frontal right lateralization found in the young adults was maintained in the older adults during successful trials. Interestingly, bilateral activation was observed when error trials were combined with successful trials highlighting the influence of brain activation associated with errors during cognitive processing. In conclusion, aging appears to result in modified functional regions that may contribute to reduced interference resolution. In addition, error processing should be considered and accounted for when studying age-related cognitive changes as errors may confound the interpretation of task specific age-related activation differences.
Existing evidence suggests that reward and attentional networks function in concert and that activation in one system influences the other in a reciprocal fashion; however, the nature of these influences remains poorly understood. We therefore developed a three-component task to assess the interaction effects of reward anticipation and conflict resolution on the behavioral performance and the activation of brain reward and attentional systems. Sixteen healthy adult volunteers aged 21–45 years were scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing the task. A two-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with cue (reward vs. non-reward) and target (congruent vs. incongruent) as within-subjects factors was used to test for main and interaction effects. Neural responses to anticipation, conflict, and reward outcomes were tested. Behaviorally there were main effects of both reward cue and target congruency on reaction time. Neuroimaging results showed that reward anticipation and expected reward outcomes activated components of the attentional networks, including the inferior parietal and occipital cortices, whereas surprising non-rewards activated the frontoinsular cortex bilaterally and deactivated the ventral striatum. In turn, conflict activated a broad network associated with cognitive control and motor functions. Interaction effects showed decreased activity in the thalamus, anterior cingulated gyrus, and middle frontal gyrus bilaterally when difficult conflict trials (e.g., incongruent targets) were preceded by reward cues; in contrast, the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex showed greater activation during congruent targets preceded by reward cues. These results suggest that reward anticipation is associated with lower activation in attentional networks, possibly due to increased processing efficiency, whereas more difficult, conflict trials are associated with lower activity in regions of the reward system, possibly because such trials are experienced as less rewarding.
Attention; brain reward system; fMRI; motivation; neuroimaging; neuroscience
Humans are constantly confronted with environmental stimuli that conflict with task goals and can interfere with successful behavior. Prevailing theories propose the existence of cognitive control mechanisms that can suppress the processing of conflicting input and enhance that of the relevant input. However, the temporal cascade of brain processes invoked in response to conflicting stimuli remains poorly understood. By examining evoked electrical brain responses in a novel, hemifield-specific, visual-flanker task, we demonstrate that task-irrelevant conflicting stimulus input is quickly detected in higher-level executive regions while simultaneously inducing rapid, recurrent modulation of sensory processing in the visual cortex. Importantly, however, both of these effects are larger for individuals with greater incongruency-related reaction time slowing. The combination of neural activation patterns and behavioral interference effects suggest that this initial sensory modulation induced by conflicting stimulus inputs reflects performance-degrading attentional distraction due to their incompatibility, rather than any rapid task-enhancing cognitive control mechanisms. The present findings thus provide neural evidence for a model in which attentional distraction is the key initial trigger for the temporal cascade of processes by which the human brain responds to conflicting stimulus input in the environment.
Past studies have suggested attentional control tasks such as the Stroop task and the task switching paradigm may be sensitive to the early detection of Dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT). The current study combined these tasks to create a Stroop switching task. Performance was compared across young adults, older adults, and individuals diagnosed with “Very Mild” dementia. Results indicated that this task strongly discriminated healthy aging from early stage DAT. In a logistic regression analysis, incongruent error rates from the Stroop Switch discriminated healthy aging from DAT better than any of the other 18 cognitive tasks given in a psychometric battery.
ALZHEIMER’DISEASE; ATTENTIONAL CONTROL; TASK SWITCHING; DEMENTIA; STROOP
Aging has readily observable effects on the ability to resolve conflict between competing stimulus attributes that are likely related to selective structural and functional brain changes. To identify age-related differences in neural circuits subserving conflict processing, we combined structural and functional MRI and a Stroop Match-to-Sample task involving perceptual cueing and repetition to modulate resources in healthy young and older adults. In our Stroop Match-to-Sample task, older adults handled conflict by activating a frontoparietal attention system more than young adults and engaged a visuomotor network more than young adults when processing repetitive conflict and when processing conflict following valid perceptual cueing. By contrast, young adults activated frontal regions more than older adults when processing conflict with perceptual cueing. These differential activation patterns were not correlated with regional gray matter volume despite smaller volumes in older than young adults. Given comparable performance in speed and accuracy of responding between both groups, these data suggest that successful aging is associated with functional reorganization of neural systems to accommodate functionally increasing task demands on perceptual and attentional operations.
Conflict; Stroop; Perceptual Cueing; Functional Reorganization; structural MRI; functional MRI
Models of selective attention predict that focused attention to spatially contiguous stimuli may result in enhanced activity in areas of cortex specialized for processing task-relevant and task-irrelevant information. We examined this hypothesis by localizing color-sensitive areas (CSA) and word and letter sensitive areas of cortex and then examining modulation of these regions during performance of a modified version of the Stroop task in which target and distractors are spatially coincident. We report that only the incongruent condition with the highest cognitive demand showed increased activity in CSA relative to other conditions, indicating an attentional enhancement in target processing areas. We also found an enhancement of activity in one region sensitive to word/letter processing during the most cognitively demanding incongruent condition indicating greater processing of the distractor dimension. Correlations with performance revealed that top-down modulation during the task was critical for effective filtering of irrelevant information in conflict conditions. These results support predictions made by models of selective attention and suggest an important mechanism of top-down attentional control in spatially contiguous stimuli.
Attentional control; Top-down modulation; Stroop task; Color-sensitive; Visual word form area
Previous studies have indicated that the processes leading to the resolution of emotional and non-emotional interference conflicts are unrelated, involving separate networks. It is also known that conflict resolution itself suggests a considerable overlap of the networks. Our study is an attempt to examine how these findings may be related.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study neural responses of 24 healthy subjects to emotional and non-emotional conflict paradigms involving the presentation of congruent and incongruent word-face pairs based on semantic incompatibility between targets and distractors. In the emotional task, the behavioral interference conflict was greater (compared to the non-emotional task) and was paralleled by involvement of the extrastriate visual and posterodorsal medial frontal cortices. In both tasks, we also observed a common network including the dorsal anterior cingulate, the supplemental motor area, the anterior insula and the inferior prefrontal cortex, indicating that these brain structures are markers of experienced conflict. However, the emotional task involved conflict-triggered networks to a considerably higher degree.
Our findings indicate that responses to emotional and non-emotional distractors involve the same systems, which are capable of flexible adjustments based on conflict demands. The function of systems related to conflict resolution is likely to be adjusted on the basis of an evaluation process that primarily involves the extrastriate visual cortex, with target playing a significant role.
Momentary reductions of attention can have extremely adverse outcomes, but it remains unclear whether increased distraction from irrelevant stimuli contributes to such outcomes. To investigate this hypothesis, we examined trial-by-trial relationships between brain activity and response time in twenty healthy adults while they performed a cross-modal selective attention task. In each trial, participants identified a relevant visual letter while ignoring an irrelevant auditory letter, which was mapped either to the same response as the visual letter (congruent trials) or to a different response (incongruent trials). As predicted, reductions of attention (i.e., increases of response time) were associated not only with decreased activity in sensory regions that processed the relevant visual stimuli, suggesting a failure to enhance the processing of those stimuli, but also with increased activity in sensory regions that processed the irrelevant auditory stimuli, suggesting a failure to suppress the processing of those stimuli. Reductions of attention were also linked to larger increases of activity in incongruent than in congruent trials in anterior cingulate regions that detect response conflict, suggesting that failing to suppress the sensory processing of the irrelevant auditory stimuli during attentional reductions allowed those stimuli to more readily activate conflicting responses in incongruent trials. These findings indicate that heightened levels of distraction during momentary reductions of attention likely stem, at least in part, from increased processing of irrelevant stimuli.
attention; auditory; visual; response conflict; fMRI; cognitive
Spoken language processing in noisy environments, a hallmark of the human brain, is subject to age-related decline, even when peripheral hearing might be intact. The present study examines the cortical cerebral hemodynamics (measured by fMRI) associated with such processing in the aging brain. Younger and older subjects identified single words in quiet and in two multi-talker babble noise conditions (SNR 20 and −5 dB). Behaviorally, older and younger subjects did not show significant differences in the first two conditions but older adults performed less accurately in the SNR -5 condition. The fMRI results showed reduced activation in the auditory cortex but an increase in working memory and attention-related cortical areas (prefrontal and precuneus regions) in older subjects, especially in the SNR -5 condition. Increased cortical activities in general cognitive regions were positively correlated with behavioral performance in older listeners, suggestive of a compensatory strategy. Furthermore, inter-regional correlation revealed that while younger subjects showed a more streamlined cortical network of auditory regions in response to spoken word processing in noise, older subjects showed a more diffused network involving frontal and ventral brain regions. These results are consistent with the decline-compensation hypothesis, suggestive of its applicability to the auditory domain.
Speech-in-noise; elderly; fMRI; cognitive aging; sensory aging; hearing
Younger adults with anxiety disorders are known to show an attentional bias toward negative information. Little is known regarding the role of biased attention in anxious older adults, and even less is known about the neural substrates of any such bias. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to assess the mechanisms of attentional bias in late life by contrasting predictions of a top-down model emphasizing deficient prefrontal cortex (PFC) control and a bottom-up model emphasizing amygdalar hyperreactivity. In all, 16 older generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) patients (mean age=66 years) and 12 non-anxious controls (NACs; mean age=67 years) completed the emotional Stroop task to assess selective attention to negative words. Task-related fMRI data were concurrently acquired. Consistent with hypotheses, GAD participants were slower to identify the color of negative words relative to neutral, whereas NACs showed the opposite bias, responding more quickly to negative words. During negative words (in comparison with neutral), the NAC group showed PFC activations, coupled with deactivation of task-irrelevant emotional processing regions such as the amygdala and hippocampus. By contrast, GAD participants showed PFC decreases during negative words and no differences in amygdalar activity across word types. Across all participants, greater attentional bias toward negative words was correlated with decreased PFC recruitment. A significant positive correlation between attentional bias and amygdala activation was also present, but this relationship was mediated by PFC activity. These results are consistent with reduced prefrontal attentional control in late-life GAD. Strategies to enhance top-down attentional control may be particularly relevant in late-life GAD treatment.
aging; anxiety; attentional bias; attention; FMRI; prefrontal cortex
Previously, we have shown that spatial attention to a visual stimulus can spread across both space and modality to a synchronously presented but task-irrelevant sound arising from a different location, reflected by a late-onsetting, sustained, negative-polarity event-related potential (ERP) wave over fronto-central scalp sites, likely originating in part from the auditory cortices. Here we explore the influence of cross-modal conflict on the amplitude and temporal dynamics of this multisensory spreading-of-attention activity. Subjects attended selectively to one of two concurrently presented lateral visual-letter streams to perform a sequential comparison task, while ignoring task-irrelevant, centrally presented spoken letters that could occur synchronously with either the attended or unattended lateral visual letters and could be either congruent or incongruent with them. Extracted auditory ERPs revealed that, collapsed across congruency, attentional spreading across modalities started around 220 ms, replicating our earlier findings. The interaction between attentional spreading and conflict occurred beginning at around 300 ms, with attentional-spreading activity being larger for incongruent trials. Thus, the increased processing of an incongruent, task-irrelevant sound in a multisensory stimulation appear to occur some time after attention has spread from the attended visual part to the ignored auditory part, presumably reflecting that the conflict detection and associated attentional capture occurs after the accrual of some multisensory interaction processes at a higher-level semantic processing stage.
auditory; visual; EEG; ERP
Attentional control involves the ability to allocate preparatory attention to improve subsequent stimulus processing and response selection. There is behavioral evidence to support the hypothesis that increased expectancy of stimulus and response conflict may decrease the subsequent experience of conflict during task performance. We used a cued Flanker and event-related fMRI design to separate processes involved in preparation from those involved in resolving conflict, and to identify the brain systems involved in these processes as well as the association between preparatory activity levels and activity related to subsequent conflict processing. Our results demonstrate that preparatory attentional allocation following a cue to the upcoming level of conflict is mediated by a network involving Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) and the Intraparietal Sulcus (IPS). Informed preparation for conflict processing was associated with decreased Anterior Cingulate Cortex/preSupplementary Motor Area (ACC/preSMA) and IPS activity during the flanker target presentation, supporting their roles in conflict processing and visuospatial attention during the flanker task. Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex/Orbitofrontal Cortex (VLPFC/OFC) was active when specific strategic task rule and outcome information was available.
Cognitive control requires the suppression of distracting information in order to focus on task-relevant information. We applied EEG source reconstruction via time-frequency linear constrained minimum variance beamforming to help elucidate the neural mechanisms involved in spatial conflict processing. Human subjects performed a Simon task, in which conflict was induced by incongruence between spatial location and response hand. We found an early (∼200 ms post-stimulus) conflict modulation in stimulus-contralateral parietal gamma (30–50 Hz), followed by a later alpha-band (8–12 Hz) conflict modulation, suggesting an early detection of spatial conflict and inhibition of spatial location processing. Inter-regional connectivity analyses assessed via cross-frequency coupling of theta (4–8 Hz), alpha, and gamma power revealed conflict-induced shifts in cortical network interactions: Congruent trials (relative to incongruent trials) had stronger coupling between frontal theta and stimulus-contrahemifield parietal alpha/gamma power, whereas incongruent trials had increased theta coupling between medial frontal and lateral frontal regions. These findings shed new light into the large-scale network dynamics of spatial conflict processing, and how those networks are shaped by oscillatory interactions.
Prior research suggests that abrupt initiation of abstinence from cigarette smoking reduces neural cognitive efficiency. When cognitive efficiency is high, processing speed and accuracy are maximized with a minimal allocation of cognitive resources. The study presented here tested the effects of resumption of smoking on cognitive response conflict after overnight abstinence from smoking, hypothesizing that smoking would enhance cognitive efficiency. Twenty paid research volunteers who were chronic cigarette smokers abstained from smoking overnight (>12 h), before undergoing fMRI while performing a color-word Stroop task during two separate test sessions: one that did not include smoking before testing and another one that did. Statistical analyses were performed by modeling the Stroop effect (incongruent > congruent) BOLD response within a collection of a priori regions of interest that have consistently been associated with cognitive control. Behavioral assessment alone did not reveal any significant differences in the Stroop effect between the two sessions. BOLD activations, however, indicated that in the right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), smokers had significantly less task-related activity following smoking (p < 0.02). In contrast, the right middle frontal gyrus exhibited significantly greater activity after smoking compared to the no-smoking session (p < 0.003). Exaggerated neural activity in the ACC during nicotine withdrawal may reflect a compensatory mechanism by which cognitive control networks expend excessive energy to support selective attention processes. Resumption of smoking may enhance cognitive control in smokers, involving a reduction in ACC response conflict activity together with an improvement in conflict resolution involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
nicotine dependence; nicotine withdrawal; cognitive control; fMRI; Stroop task
Prior research suggests that abrupt initiation of abstinence from cigarette smoking reduces neural cognitive efficiency. When cognitive efficiency is high, processing speed and accuracy are maximized with minimal allocation of cognitive resources. The study presented here tested the effects of resumption of smoking on cognitive response conflict after overnight abstinence from smoking, hypothesizing that smoking would enhance cognitive efficiency. Twenty paid research volunteers who were chronic cigarette smokers abstained from smoking overnight (>12 h) before undergoing fMRI while performing a color-word Stroop task during two separate test sessions: one that did not include smoking before testing and another one that did. Statistical analyses were performed by modeling the Stroop effect (incongruent >congruent) BOLD response within a collection of a priori regions of interest that have consistently been associated with cognitive control. Behavioral assessment alone did not reveal any significant differences in the Stroop effect between the two sessions. BOLD activations, however, indicated that in the right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), smokers had significantly less task-related activity following smoking (p<0.02). In contrast, the right middle frontal gyrus exhibited significantly greater activity after smoking as compared to the no-smoking session (p<0.003). Exaggerated neural activity in the ACC during nicotine withdrawal may reflect a compensatory mechanism by which cognitive control networks expend excessive energy to support selective attention processes. Resumption of smoking may enhance cognitive control in smokers, involving a reduction in ACC response conflict activity together with improvement in conflict resolution involving the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
nicotine dependence; nicotine withdrawal; cognitive control; fMRI; Stroop task; Addiction & Substance Abuse; Behavioral Science; Biological Psychiatry; Cognition; nicotine dependence; nicotine withdrawal; cognitive control; fMRI; Stroop task
Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to examine adult age differences in neural activation during visual search. Target detection was less accurate for older adults than for younger adults, but both age groups were successful in using color to guide attention to a subset of display items. Increasing perceptual difficulty led to greater activation of occipitotemporal cortex for younger adults than for older adults, apparently as the result of older adults maintaining higher levels of activation within the easier task conditions. The results suggest that compensation for age-related decline in the efficiency of occipitotemporal cortical functioning was implemented by changes in the relative level of activation within this visual processing pathway, rather than by the recruitment of other cortical regions.
Behavioral research indicates that healthy aging is accompanied by maintenance of voluntary attentional function in many situations, suggesting older adults are able to use attention to enhance and suppress neural activity. However, other experiments show increased distractibility with age, suggesting a failure of attention. One hypothesis for these apparently conflicting findings is that older adults experience a greater sensory processing load at baseline compared to younger adults. In this situation, older adults might successfully modulate sensory cortical activity relative to a baseline referent condition, but the increased baseline load results in more activity than younger adults after attentional modulation. This hypothesis was tested by comparing average functional brain activity in auditory cortex using quantitative perfusion imaging during resting state and steady-state visual conditions. It was observed that older adults demonstrated greater processing of task-irrelevant auditory background noise than younger adults in both conditions. As expected, auditory activity was attenuated relative to rest during a visually engaging task for both older and younger participants. However, older adults continued to show greater auditory processing than their younger counterparts even after this task modulation. Furthermore, auditory activity during the visual task was predictive of cross-sensory distraction on a behavioral task in older adults. Together, these findings suggest that older adults are more distractible than younger, and the cause of this increased distractibility may lie in baseline brain functioning.
aging; attention; cerebral perfusion; cross-sensory; functional imaging