Parametric manipulation of the conflict signal and control-state adaptation

Sarah E. Forster, Cameron S. Carter, Jonathan D. Cohen, Raymond Y. Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Mechanisms by which the brain monitors and modulates performance are an important focus of recent research. The conflict-monitoring hypothesis posits that the ACC detects conflict between competing response pathways which, in turn, signals for enhanced control. The N2, an ERP component that has been localized to ACC, has been observed after high conflict stimuli. As a candidate index of the conflict signal, the N2 would be expected to be sensitive to the degree of response conflict present, a factor that depends on both the features of external stimuli and the internal control state. In the present study, we sought to explore the relationship between N2 amplitude and these variables through use of a modified Eriksen flankers task in which target-distracter compatibility was parametrically varied. We hypothesized that greater target-distracter incompatibility would result in higher levels of response conflict, as indexed by both behavior and the N2 component. Consistent with this prediction, there were parametric degradations in behavioral performance and increases in N2 amplitudes with increasing incompatibility. Further, increasingly incompatible stimuli led to the predicted parametric increases in control on subsequent incompatible trials as evidenced by enhanced performance and reduced N2 amplitudes. These findings suggest that the N2 component and associated behavioral performance are finely sensitive to the degree of response conflict present and to the control adjustments that result from modulations in conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)923-935
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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