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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2007 Jun;7(2):75-89.

On how high performers keep cool brains in situations of cognitive overload.

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Department of Psychology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


What happens in the brain when we reach or exceed our capacity limits? Are there individual differences for performance at capacity limits? We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the impact of increases in processing demand on selected cortical areas when participants performed a parametrically varied and challenging dual task. Low-performing participants respond with large and load-dependent activation increases in many cortical areas when exposed to excessive task requirements, accompanied by decreasing performance. It seems that these participants recruit additional attentional and strategy-related resources with increasing difficulty, which are either not relevant or even detrimental to performance. In contrast, the brains of the high-performing participants "keep cool" in terms of activation changes, despite continuous correct performance, reflecting different and more efficient processing. These findings shed light on the differential implications of performance on activation patterns and underline the importance of the interindividual-differences approach in neuroimaging research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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