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Functional definition of the N450 event-related brain potential marker of conflict processing: a numerical stroop study

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2202-13-35

Keywords: Conflict processing, Interference, Subthreshold response activation, Stroop effect, Anterior cingulate cortex, Numerical distance effect, Numerical cognition, ERP, EEG

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Abstract:

EMG showed that response conflict was significantly larger in neutrally than in effectively cued trials. The N450 was similar when response conflict was high and when it was low.We conclude that the N450 is related to stimulus or abstract, rather than to response conflict detection/resolution. Findings may enable timing ACC conflict effects.Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have identified brain structures involved in detecting/resolving conflict at the stimulus and response levels [1,2]. In addition, event-related brain potential (ERP) studies have identified a succession of events in stimulus/response conflict resolution [3-5]. However, so far studies have been limited by the fact that there is no independent measure of stimulus/response conflict. Hence, inferences were based on paradigmatic assumptions about the presence/absence of stimulus/response conflict in certain tasks. We have overcome this limitation [6] by measuring response conflict directly using electro-myography (EMG). Here we extended our previous methodology by manipulating response conflict at the paradigm level and checking the success of this manipulation by EMG. This method enabled us to determine whether a robust ERP marker of conflict detection/resolution, the N450 ERP wave, was related to stimulus or response conflict. The N450 has previously been linked to conflict effects emanating from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Therefore, clarifying the functional significance of the N450 may enable us to time ACC conflict effects detected by fMRI.In principle, Stroop conflict can appear at the level of stimulus representations (stimulus conflict) or at the level of motor response organization (response conflict). According to the stimulus conflict view, Stroop conflict appears because the representations of parallel processed stimulus dimensions are incongruent with each other [7]. According to the response conflict view, Stroop conflict appears during the organization of mo

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