Depletion of executive control during risky decision making reveals a correspondence between the reflection effect and trial-by-trial strategy formation
According to dual process theories, depletion of executive resources may amplify decision-making
biases. Psychological studies investigating the influence of executive control on risky decision mak-
ing typically employ dual task paradigms, e.g. a risky decision-making task in parallel with an exec-
utive task. However, these paradigms often reveal relatively weak to null effects. In this study, we
designed a novel task to determine the influence of executive control on risky decision making di-
rectly, and simultaneously separating gains and losses using a block design. Contrary to other tasks,
risk taking, and executive control occurred during the same decision. When risky decisions were
conditioned on high executive control, participants demonstrated a reflection effect: higher risk
taking for loss blocks, compared to gain blocks. Further exploration revealed that the gain-domain
specific influence of executive control on risky decisions occurred due to the influence of trial-by-
trial decision-making strategies.
Age-related brain changes are the main cause of cognitive decline. Active cognitive task perform- ance as well as resting-state activity might be a sensitive index for studying differences in aging. We investigated age-related changes in the spontaneous neuronal activity with functional mag- netic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a resting-state condition. To evaluate differences in aging, we analyzed functional connectivity between resting-state networks in two groups of older and younger healthy volunteers. Seven resting-state networks were isolated, and cross-correlation matrices were computed for the time courses. Older subjects showed decreased activity of the auditory, visual, sensory-motor networks, frontoparietal and salience networks accompanied by increased coupling of the salience network with the sensorimotor and default mode network compared to younger subjects. The age-related differences in functional connectivity may be due to aging impairment of the prefrontal cortex leading to a loss of activation in the salience, senso- rimotor and visual networks in older subjects compared to the younger subjects. However, the default mode network was more prominent in the left hemisphere and showed more coupling with the salience network in older subjects than in younger subjects, indicating possible compen- satory engagement of cognitive control regions in resting-state cognition. The results show that independent of task design and performance the functional connectivity method reflects neural changes in the aging brain.
Cognitive control includes maintenance of task-specific processes related to attention, and non-specific regulation of motor threshold. Generally, two different kinds of errors may occur, with some errors related to attentional lapses and decision uncertainty, and some errors – to failures of sustaining motor threshold. Error commission leads to adaptive adjustments in brain networks that subserve goal-directed behavior, resulting in either enhanced stimulus processing or increased motor threshold depending on the nature of errors committed. We report here two studies using the auditory version of the two-choice condensation task, which is highly demanding for sustained attention while involves no inhibition of prepotent responses. We analyzed power and topography of EEG oscillations in theta, alpha, and beta frequency bands.
Experiment 1. We studied post-error adaptive adjustments resulting in optimized brain processing and behaviour on subsequent trials. Errors were followed by increased frontal midline theta (FMT) activity, as well as by enhanced alpha band suppression in the parietal and the left central regions; parietal alpha suppression correlated with the task performance, left central alpha suppression correlated with the post-error slowing, and FMT increase correlated with both behavioral measures. On post-error correct trials, left-central alpha band suppression started earlier before the response, and the response was followed by weaker FMT activity, as well as by enhanced alpha band suppression distributed over the entire scalp. These findings show the existence of three separate neuronal networks involved in post-error adjustments: the midfrontal performance monitoring network, the parietal attentional network, and the sensorimotor network.
Experiment 2. We studied if response time may be a valid approximation distinguishing trials with high and low levels of sustained attention and decision uncertainty. We found that error-related FMT activity was present only on fast erroneous trials. The feedback-related FMT activity was equally strong on slow erroneous and fast erroneous trials. Late post-response posterior alpha suppression was stronger on erroneous slow trials. Feedbackrelated frontal beta oscillations were present only on slow correct trials. The data obtained cumulatively suggests that response time allows distinguishing the two types of trials, with fast trials related to higher levels of attention and low uncertainty, and slow trials related to lower levels of attention and higher uncertainty.
We often change our behavior to conform to real or imagined group pressure. Social influence on our behavior has been extensively studied in social psychology, but its neural mechanisms have remained largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that the transient downregulation of the posterior medial frontal cortex by theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces conformity, as indicated by reduced conformal adjustments in line with group opinion. Both the extent and probability of conformal behavioral adjustments decreased significantly relative to a sham and a control stimulation over another brain area. The posterior part of the medial frontal cortex has previously been implicated in behavioral and attitudinal adjustments. Here, we provide the first interventional evidence of its critical role in social influence on human behavior.
Commission of error causes the adjustments in a number of brain systems related to goal-directed behavior. Errors may be caused by failures of motor inhibition or by general attentional lapses, which lead to the different neural adjustments with their specific electrophysiological and behavioral correlates (van Driel et al., 2012; Danielmeier and Ullsperger, 2011). Thus, post-error adjustments may lead both to non-specific increase of motor threshold or to specific improvement of stimulus processing and decision making, with different brain systems involved in these processes (King et al., 2010). In the present study, we aimed at the investigation of error-related theta and alpha band power modulations and of corresponding behavioral adjustments.
An auditory two-choice version of the condensation task was used in the experiment (Posner, 1964; Chernyshev et al., 2015). Subjects were presented with random sequence of tones; each tone was either 500 Hz (‘low’) or 2000 Hz (‘high’), either a pure tone (‘pure’) or the same tone intermixed with broadband noise. The participants were instructed to respond to stimuli with pressing left or right button on a gamepad, according to the memorized rule (see Table 1). Correct responses after stimulus onset were immediately followed by a positive feedback (a schematic smiling face) presented for 500 ms after the response. This task is highly demanding for sustained attention, but implies no to-be-inhibited “automatic” responses. We analyzed modulations of non-phase-locked theta (4 – 7 Hz) and alpha (8 – 12 Hz) EEG power that occurs on erroneous and post-error correct trials. We used data-driven approach with threshold-free cluster enhancement (TFCE)-based permutational correction for multiple spatial-time-frequency bins in order to avoid a priori ROI selection. Also, we analyzed correlations between post-error spectral modulations and behavioral variables (percentage of errors and post-error slowing), using Spearman’s correlation coefficient.
Response times (RT) on erroneous trials was significantly larger than on correct trials (t = 9.48, p < 0.001). No significant post-error slowing (PES) was found (t=-0.53, p=0.60). Errors (compared to correct trials) lead to significantly (p < 0.05) increased frontal midline theta (FMT) power (0 – 400 ms), followed by the enhanced alpha band suppression in the parietal (400 – 700 ms) and the left central regions (500 – 1000 ms) (Fig. 1A, top row). Based on these results, we selected three regions of interest: R1 – frontal midline theta, R2 – posterior alpha, R3 – left central alpha (Fig. 1A, top row). Stronger parietal alpha suppression was associated with better task performance, stronger left central alpha suppression was associated with more pronounced PES, and FMT increase positively correlated with both behavioral variables (Fig. 1B). On post-error correct trials (compared to post-correct ones), the following significant (p < 0.05) effects were found (Fig. 1A, bottom row): stronger pre-response left-central alpha suppression (-1000 – -250 ms); stronger generalized alpha suppression around the response (-150 – 500 ms), weaker post-response FMT power (0 – 600 ms).
We believe that our results suggest the occurrence of the conflict / error detection signal, followed by the signals of attentional reconfiguration and motor threshold adjustment. These adjustments resulted in optimized performance on the subsequent trials, accompanied by the reduced uncertainty of the response and decreased conflict. Our findings presumably indicate post-error adaptations in several brain systems, and extend the literature on sustained attention lapses and cognitive control.