Ongoing brain activity fluctuations directly account for intertrial and indirectly for intersubject variability in stroop task performance

Clio P. Coste, Sepideh Sadaghiani, Karl J. Friston, Andreas Kleinschmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Recent studies have established a relation between ongoing brain activity fluctuations and intertrial variability in evoked neural responses, perception, and motor performance. Here, we extended these investigations into the domain of cognitive control. Using functional neuroimaging and a sparse event-related design (with long and unpredictable intervals), we measured ongoing activity fluctuations and evoked responses in volunteers performing a Stroop task with color-word interference. Across trials, prestimulus activity of several regions predicted subsequent response speed and across subjects this effect scaled with the Stroop effect size, being significant only in subjects manifesting behavioral interference. These effects occurred only in task relevant as the dorsal anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as ventral visual areas sensitive to color and visual words. Crucially, in subjects showing a Stroop effect, reaction times were faster when prestimulus activity was higher in task-relevant (color) regions and slower when activity was higher in irrelevant (word form) regions. These findings suggest that intrinsic brain activity fluctuations modulate neural mechanisms underpinning selective voluntary attention and cognitive control. Rephrased in terms of predictive coding models, ongoing activity can hence be considered a proxy of the precision (gain) with which prediction error signals are transmitted upon sensory stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2612-2619
Number of pages8
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume21
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • BOLD fMRI
  • executive function
  • human brain
  • neuroimaging
  • resting state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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