ERPs dissociate proactive and reactive control: Evidence from a task-switching paradigm with informative and uninformative cues
According to the dual mechanism of control (DMC) framework, cognitive control can be recruited proactively to prevent response conflict when advance preparation is feasible or is up-regulated to overcome response conflict after it is detected. This study aimed at empirically dissociating proactive and reactive control processes proposed by the DMC and identifying corresponding event-related potential (ERP) correlates. Behavioral and electrophysiological indices of cognitive control were measured during a task-switch paradigm with or without informative advance cues, in which proactive control was feasible or not. Proactive control was associated with a (right-) frontal sustained ERP modulation during the cue–target interval. In line with the successful recruitment of proactive control, informative, as compared with uninformative, cue conditions were associated with reduced behavioral and ERP correlates of conflict. ERP correlates of conflict were evident both during conflict detection upon target presentation (Ninc) and during conflict resolution—in particular, following uninformative cues. Reactive control assumed to support conflict resolution was associated with a (left-) frontal transient preresponse ERP modulation for uninformative, but not informative, cue conditions. Together, these data suggest that complementary proactive and reactive control processes operate in concert to flexibly support goal-directed behavior in response to variable task-demands, by either preventing or resolving response conflicts, as they are detected or anticipated.