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Restriction of task processing time affects cortical activity during processing of a cognitive task: an event-related slow cortical potential study

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Document pages: 8 pages

Abstract: As is known from psychometrics, restriction of task processing time by the instruction to respond as quickly and accurately as possible leads to task-unspecific cognitive processing. Since this task processing mode is used in most functional neuroimaging studies of humancognition, this may evoke cortical activity that is functionally not essential for the particular task under investigation. Using topographic recordings of event-related slow cortical potentials, two experiments have been performed to investigate whether cortical activity duringprocessing of a visuo-spatial imagery task is substantially influenced by the time provided to process the task. Furthermore, it was investigated whether this effect is additionally modulated by a subject’s task-specific ability. The instruction to respond as quickly and accurately as possible led to increased negative slow cortical potential amplitudes over parietal and frontal regions and significantly interacted with task-specific ability. While cortical activity recorded over parietal and frontal regions was different between subjects with low and high spatial ability when processing time was unrestricted, no such differences were found between ability groups when subjectswere instructed to answer both quickly and accurately. These results suggest that restricting processing time has considerable effects on the amount and the pattern of brain activity during cognitive processing and should be taken into account more explicitly in the experimental design and interpretation of neuroimaging studies of cognition.

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