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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 Oct;17(3):733-46.

Functional neuroanatomy of interference in overlapping dual tasks: an fMRI study.

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Department of Psychology, Humboldt University, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, 10117 Berlin, Germany.


A basic characteristic of the human action and cognition system is the occurrence of interference when participants attempt to perform two tasks at the same time. Such interference has been studied for a long time with so-called overlapping dual tasks, where two stimuli presented in rapid succession require separate responses. As an indicator of interference, reaction times on the second stimulus increase the smaller the interval between both tasks. While most behavioral studies investigated the temporal dynamics of the interference, we focused on the functional neuroanatomy of overlapping dual-task performance by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were asked to perform two choice reaction tasks concurrently [Pashler, Psychol. Bull., 116 (1994) 220-244]. When activation in this overlapping dual-task situation was compared with the summed activation of the single component tasks, activation in the prefrontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital cortices was detected. These data suggest that the processing of the overlapping dual tasks requires an extensive and distributed network of processing centers. However, the main focus of the dual-task-related activation was located in regions surrounding the left inferior frontal sulcus. Based on our findings and on findings of other recent neuroimaging studies, we argue that activation of the left inferior frontal sulcus reflects increased synaptic activity related to the need to manage interfering information in order to determine the appropriate action.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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