Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 117–131

ERPs dissociate proactive and reactive control: Evidence from a task-switching paradigm with informative and uninformative cues


DOI: 10.3758/s13415-014-0302-y

Cite this article as:
Czernochowski, D. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci (2015) 15: 117. doi:10.3758/s13415-014-0302-y


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.


Cognitive controlERPPrefrontal cortex

Supplementary material

13415_2014_302_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (35 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 35.3 kb)
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Fig. S1

Modulation of ERP effects as a function of Trial Type during the target interval for uninformative (A) and informative cue conditions (B). (GIF 678 kb)

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Fig. S2

Illustration of the time course of Ninc conflict effects during the target interval as a function of Trial Type for uninformative (A) and informative cue conditions (B). (GIF 612 kb)

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High resolution image (TIFF 272 kb)
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Fig. S3

Illustration of the time course of Ninc conflict effects during the pre-response interval as a function of Trial Type (GIF 635 kb)

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High resolution image (TIFF 231 kb)
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Fig. S4

Illustration of mean amplitude differences for ERP target effects (GIF 344 kb)

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High resolution image (TIFF 99 kb)

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Cognitive ScienceTechnical University KaiserslauternKaiserslauternGermany