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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Apr 8;45(7):1571-9.

Cognitive fatigue of executive processes: interaction between interference resolution tasks.

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Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, East Hall, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109, USA.


A resource depletion framework motivated a novel strategy for investigating whether the central executive is unitary or separable into relatively independent subprocesses. The idea that tasks with overlapping neural representations may involve similar executive components was also critical to our approach. Of particular interest were tasks requiring resolution of interference among competing representations. Within a single experimental session intensive training reduced the ability to resolve interference on a transfer task if the training task placed high demands on interference resolution. Negative transfer was absent when interference resolution was minimally required by the task, or when the training and transfer tasks did not rely on overlapping neural representations. These results suggest a nonunitary central executive composed of separable subcomponents, at least one of which mediates interference resolution. Our results are consistent with an executive control process specialized for the selection of task-relevant representations from competitors. The results also agree with the view that higher cognitive processes are resource limited and can be temporarily depleted.

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