Task difficulty modulates brain-behavior correlations in language production and cognitive control: Behavioral and fMRI evidence from a phonological go/no-go picture-naming paradigm.
ABSTRACT: Language production and cognitive control are complex processes that involve distinct yet interacting brain networks. However, the extent to which these processes interact and their neural bases have not been thoroughly examined. Here, we investigated the neural and behavioral bases of language production and cognitive control via a phonological go/no-go picture-naming task. Naming difficulty and cognitive control demands (i.e., conflict monitoring and response inhibition) were manipulated by varying the proportion of naming trials (go trials) and inhibition trials (no-go trials) across task runs. The results demonstrated that as task demands increased, participants' behavioral performance declined (i.e., longer reaction times on naming trials, more commission errors on inhibition trials) whereas brain activation generally increased. Increased activation was found not only within the language network but also in domain-general control regions. Additionally, right superior and inferior frontal and left supramarginal gyri were sensitive to increased task difficulty during both language production and response inhibition. We also found both positive and negative brain-behavior correlations. Most notably, increased activation in sensorimotor regions, such as precentral and postcentral gyri, was associated with better behavioral performance, in both successful picture naming and successful inhibition. Moreover, comparing the strength of correlations across conditions indicated that the brain-behavior correlations in sensorimotor regions that were associated with improved performance became stronger as task demands increased. Overall, our results suggest that cognitive control demands affect language production, and that successfully coping with increases in task difficulty relies on both language-specific and domain-general cognitive control regions.
Project description:Older adults typically show decline in a variety of cognitive functions including inhibitory control and language production, with corresponding age-related increases in fMRI activation. However, it remains unclear whether such increases are compensatory or whether they reflect neural decline. One factor that may influence these brain-behavior relationships is difficulty. The current study investigated the effect of difficulty on age-related differences in the behavioral and neural bases of language production and inhibitory control using a phonological Go/No-Go picture naming task. Task demands were manipulated by varying the proportion of naming trials (Go trials) and inhibition trials (No-Go trials) across runs. All participants showed task-difficulty related declines in behavioral performance and increases in fMRI activation. Behaviorally, older adults were more sensitive to task difficulty, and elicited more fMRI activation than younger adults. Older adults were less neurally responsive to additional task demands (i.e., picture naming alone vs. Go/No-Go picture naming), but interestingly showed similar within-task increases as younger adults (e.g., Go Bias vs. No-Go Bias). Moreover, the relationships between fMRI activation and behavioral performance in older adults were multifaceted and the strength of these relations changed as a function of task difficulty. Specifically, activation in pre- and post- central gyri, right supramarginal and angular gyri was negatively correlated with naming reaction times, suggesting that activation in these regions may help mitigate age-related declines in language production. These findings are partially consistent with the CRUNCH model, highlighting the important influence of task difficulty on older adults' behavioral performance and their patterns of fMRI activation during language production.
Project description:Top-down control processes are essential for guiding attention and working memory towards task-relevant information. Recently, theta oscillations were suggested as critical for these cognitive processes. Infant studies testing a mixture of bottom-up and top-down processes support adult theta findings. Yet, since infants cannot be instructed, it remains unclear to what extent theta oscillations are involved particularly in top-down control in early childhood. That is especially relevant towards school age when children need top-down control to solve the increasingly complex tasks. In this EEG study, we investigated whether theta-power in 4-year-olds is sensitive to task engagement and to different cognitive task demands. In a within-subjects design, children had three different instructions before watching videos including either no demands (No Task), language-related (Color-naming Task), or action-related (Imitation Task) demands. We analyzed children's theta-power (3-6 Hz) in two contrasts: (1) Task vs. No Task and (2) Color-naming vs. Imitation Task. The findings revealed more frontomedial theta-power when children were engaged in a task and their frontomedial theta-power increased during their cognitive engagement. Theta-power was stronger over left fronto-temporal sites for language- compared to action-related demands. These findings support recent theoretical work highlighting theta oscillations in top-down control and extend this neurocognitive framework to preschoolers.
Project description:In adults, patterns of neural activation associated with perhaps the most basic language skill--overt object naming--are extensively modulated by the psycholinguistic and visual complexity of the stimuli. Do children's brains react similarly when confronted with increasing processing demands, or they solve this problem in a different way? Here we scanned 37 children aged 7-13 and 19 young adults who performed a well-normed picture-naming task with 3 levels of difficulty. While neural organization for naming was largely similar in childhood and adulthood, adults had greater activation in all naming conditions over inferior temporal gyri and superior temporal gyri/supramarginal gyri. Manipulating naming complexity affected adults and children quite differently: neural activation, especially over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, showed complexity-dependent increases in adults, but complexity-dependent decreases in children. These represent fundamentally different responses to the linguistic and conceptual challenges of a simple naming task that makes no demands on literacy or metalinguistics. We discuss how these neural differences might result from different cognitive strategies used by adults and children during lexical retrieval/production as well as developmental changes in brain structure and functional connectivity.
Project description:Structural adaptations in brain regions involved in domain-general cognitive control are associated with life-long bilingualism and may contribute to the executive function advantage of bilinguals over monolinguals. To the degree that these adaptations support bilingualism, their disruption by Alzheimer's disease (AD) may compromise the ability to maintain proficiency in two languages, particularly in the less proficient, or nondominant, language that has greater control demands. The present study assessed this possibility in Spanish-English bilinguals with AD (n?=?21) and cognitively normal controls (n?=?30) by examining the brain correlates of dominant versus nondominant language performance on the Multilingual Naming Test (MINT), adjusting for age and education. There were no significant structural correlates of naming performance for either language in controls. In patients with AD, dominant language MINT performance was associated with cortical thickness of the entorhinal cortex and middle temporal gyrus, consistent with previous findings of temporal atrophy and related decline of naming abilities in AD. Nondominant language MINT performance, in contrast, was correlated with thickness of the left caudal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a central cognitive control region involved in error monitoring and task switching. The relationship between naming in the nondominant language and ACC in patients with AD but not in controls may reflect increased reliance on the ACC for nondominant language use in the face of atrophy of other control network components. The results are consistent with the possibility that the increased burden nondominant language use places on cognitive control systems compromised in AD may account for faster nondominant than dominant language decline in AD.
Project description:Bilingual language control may involve cognitive control, including inhibition and switching. These types of control have been previously associated with neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). In previous studies, the DRD2 gene, related to dopamine availability in the striatum, has been found to play a role in neural activity during cognitive control tasks, with carriers of the gene's A1 allele showing different patterns of activity in inferior frontal regions during cognitive control tasks than non-carriers. The current study sought to extend these findings to the domain of bilingual language control. Forty-nine Spanish-English bilinguals participated in this study by providing DNA samples through saliva, completing background questionnaires, and performing a language production task (picture-naming), a non-verbal inhibition task (Simon task), and a non-verbal switching task (shape-color task) in the fMRI scanner. The fMRI data were analyzed to determine whether variation in the genetic background or bilingual language background predicts neural activity in the IFG and ACC during these three tasks. Results indicate that genetic and language background variables predicted neural activity in the IFG during English picture naming. Variation in only the genetic background predicted neural activity in the ACC during the shape-color switching task; variation in only the language background predicted neural activity in the ACC and IFG during the Simon task. These results suggest that variation in the DRD2 gene should not be ignored when drawing conclusions about bilingual verbal and non-verbal cognitive control.
Project description:Our study explores inhibitory control across a range of widely recognised memory and behavioural tasks. Eighty-seven never-depressed participants completed a series of tasks designed to measure inhibitory control in memory and behaviour. Specifically, a variant of the selective retrieval-practice and the Think/No-Think tasks were employed as measures of memory inhibition. The Stroop-Colour Naming and the Go/No-Go tasks were used as measures of behavioural inhibition. Participants completed all 4 tasks. Task presentation order was counterbalanced across 3 separate testing sessions for each participant. Standard inhibitory forgetting effects emerged on both memory tasks but the extent of forgetting across these tasks was not correlated. Furthermore, there was no relationship between memory inhibition tasks and either of the main behavioural inhibition measures. At a time when cognitive inhibition continues to gain acceptance as an explanatory mechanism, our study raises fundamental questions about what we actually know about inhibition and how it is affected by the processing demands of particular inhibitory tasks.
Project description:The purpose of this study was to investigate the benefits of exercises with different cognitive demands for cognitive functions (Executive and non-Executive) in healthy older adults. A cross-sectional design was adopted. In total, 84 healthy older adults were enrolled in the study. They were categorized into the Tai Chi group (TG), the brisk walking group (BG) or the control group (CG). Each participant performed the Stroop task and a digit comparison task. The Stroop task included the following three conditions: a naming condition, an inhibition condition and an executive condition. There were two experimental conditions in the digit comparison task: the non-delay condition and the delay condition. The results indicated that participants of the TG and BG revealed significant better performance than the CG in the executive condition of cognitive tasks and fitness. There was no significant difference of reaction time (RT) and accuracy rate in the inhibition and delay conditions of cognitive tasks and fitness between the TG and BG. The TG showed shorter reaction time in the naming and the executive conditions, and more accurate in the inhibition conditions than the BG. These findings demonstrated that regular participation in brisk walking and Tai Chi have significant beneficial effects on executive function and fitness. However, due to the high cognitive demands of the exercise, Tai Chi benefit cognitive functions (Executive and non-Executive) in older adults more than brisk walking does. Further studies should research the underlying mechanisms at the behavioural and neuroelectric levels, providing more evidence to explain the effect of high-cognitive demands exercise on different processing levels of cognition.
Project description:Recent research demonstrates that performance on executive-control measures can be enhanced through brain stimulation of lateral prefrontal regions. Separate psycholinguistic work emphasizes the importance of left lateral prefrontal cortex executive-control resources during sentence processing, especially when readers must override early, incorrect interpretations when faced with temporary ambiguity. Using transcranial direct current stimulation, we tested whether stimulation of left lateral prefrontal cortex had discriminate effects on language and memory conditions that rely on executive-control (versus cases with minimal executive-control demands, even in the face of task difficulty). Participants were randomly assigned to receive Anodal, Cathodal, or Sham stimulation of left lateral prefrontal cortex while they (1) processed ambiguous and unambiguous sentences in a word-by-word self-paced reading task and (2) performed an n-back memory task that, on some trials, contained interference lure items reputed to require executive-control. Across both tasks, we parametrically manipulated executive-control demands and task difficulty. Our results revealed that the Anodal group outperformed the remaining groups on (1) the sentence processing conditions requiring executive-control, and (2) only the most complex n-back conditions, regardless of executive-control demands. Together, these findings add to the mounting evidence for the selective causal role of left lateral prefrontal cortex for executive-control tasks in the language domain. Moreover, we provide the first evidence suggesting that brain stimulation is a promising method to mitigate processing demands encountered during online sentence processing.
Project description:This paper presents an experiment that explored the role of domain-general inhibitory control on language switching. Reaction times (RTs) and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded when low-proficient bilinguals with high and low inhibitory control (IC) switched between overt picture naming in both their L1 and L2. Results showed that the language switch costs of bilinguals with high-IC were symmetrical, while that of bilinguals with low-IC were not. The N2 component failed to show a significant interaction between group, language and task, indicating that inhibition may not comes into play during the language task schema competition phase. The late positive component (LPC), however, showed larger amplitudes for L2 repeat and switch trials than for L1 trials in the high-IC group, indicating that inhibition may play a key role during the lexical response selection phase. These findings suggest that domain-general inhibitory control plays an important role in modulating language switch costs and its influence can be specified in lexical selection phase.
Project description:Whether emotional stimuli influence both response readiness and inhibition is highly controversial. Visual emotional stimuli appear to interfere with both under certain conditions (e.g., task relevance). Whether the effect is generalisable to salient yet task-irrelevant stimuli, such as odours, remains elusive. We tested the effect of orthonasally-presented pleasant (orange) and unpleasant odours (trimethyloxazole and hexenol) and clean air as a control on response inhibition. In emotional Go/No-Go paradigms, we manipulated the intertrial interval and ratios of Go/No-Go trials to account for motor (Experiment 1, N?=?31) and cognitive (Experiment 2, N?=?29) response inhibition processes. In Experiment 1, participants had greater difficulty in withholding and produced more accurate and faster Go responses under the pleasant vs. the control condition. Faster Go responses were also evident in the unpleasant vs. the control condition. In Experiment 2, neither pleasant nor unpleasant odours modulated action withholding, but both elicited more accurate and faster Go responses as compared to the control condition. Pleasant odours significantly impair action withholding (as compared to the control condition), indicating that more inhibitory resources are required to elicit successful inhibition in the presence of positive emotional information. This modulation was revealed for the motor aspect of response inhibition (fast-paced design with lower Go/No-Go trial ratio) rather than for attentional interference processes. Response readiness is critically impacted by the emotional nature of the odour (but not by its valence). Our findings highlight that the valence of task-irrelevant odour stimuli is a factor significantly influencing response inhibition.