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Neuropsychologia. 2000;38(10):1342-55.

Attentional set shifting modulates the target P3b response in the Wisconsin card sorting test.

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Department of Psychobiology, Faculty of Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.


For years the Wisconsin card sorting test (WCST) has been used as a test of frontal lobe function. Recent event-related potential (ERP) research has shown large differences in the amplitude of P3b responses evoked by early and late trials within each WCST series ([8]: Barceló F., Sanz M., Molina V., Rubia FJ. The Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the assessment of frontal function: A validation study with event-related potentials. Neuropsychologia 1997;35:399-408). In this study, 16 normal subjects performed a WCST adaptation to investigate the role of attentional set shifting in these WCST P3b effects. Two control tasks were designed to examine whether early-late WCST P3b changes reflect category selection (attention) or category storage (memory) operations. Results suggest both a sharp P3b attenuation during shift WCST trials, followed by a gradual P3b build-up during post-shift trials. This P3b modulation could not be attributed to selection or storage of simple sensory stimulus dimensions, nor was it observed when the new rule was externally prompted by the first card in the WCST series. Instead, WCST P3b changes seem related to the endogenously generated shift in the perceptual rule used to sort the cards (i.e., the shift in set). The gradual build-up in P3b amplitude paralleled a progressive improvement in sorting efficiency over several post-shift WCST trials. A model based on formal theories of visual attention and attentional set shifting is proposed to account for these effects. The model offers firm grounds for prediction and bridges the gap between related clinical and experimental evidence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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