, Volume 70, Issue 6, pp 436-447
Date: 11 Nov 2005

Response-specific sources of dual-task interference in human pre-motor cortex

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Abstract

It is difficult to perform two tasks at the same time. Such performance limitations are exemplified by the psychological refractory period (PRP): when participants make distinct motor responses to two stimuli presented in rapid succession, the response to the second stimulus is increasingly slowed as the time interval between the two stimuli is decreased. This impairment is thought to reflect a central limitation in selecting the appropriate response to each stimulus, but not in perceptually encoding the stimuli. In the present study, it was sought to determine which brain regions are specifically involved in response selection under dual-task conditions by contrasting fMRI brain activity measured from a response selection manipulation that increased dual-task costs, with brain activity measured from an equally demanding manipulation that affected perceptual visibility. While a number of parieto-frontal areas involved in response selection were activated by both dual-task manipulations, the dorsal pre-motor cortex, and to a lesser extent the inferior frontal cortex, were specifically engaged by the response selection manipulation. These results suggest that the pre-motor cortex is an important neural locus of response selection limitation under dual-task situations.