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Control over the Strength of Connections Between Modules: A Double Dissociation Between Stimulus Format and Task Revealed by Granger Causality Mapping in fMRI

By Britt eAnderson, Sherif eSoliman, Shannon eO'Malley, James eDanckert and Derek eBesner


Drawing on theoretical and computational work with the localist Dual Route reading model and results from behavioral studies, Besner, Moroz, and O'Malley (2011) proposed that the ability to perform tasks that require overriding stimulus-specific defaults (e.g., semantics when naming Arabic numerals, and phonology when evaluating the parity of number words) necessitate the ability to modulate the strength of connections between cognitive modules for lexical representation, semantics, and phonology on a task- and stimulus-specific basis. We used fMRI to evaluate this account by assessing changes in functional connectivity while participants performed tasks that did and did not require such stimulus-task default overrides. The occipital region showing the greatest modulation of BOLD signal strength for the two stimulus types was used as the seed region for Granger Causality Mapping (GCM). Our GCM analysis revealed a region of rostromedial frontal cortex with a crossover interaction. When participants performed tasks that required overriding stimulus type defaults (i.e., parity judgments of number words and naming Arabic numerals) functional connectivity between the occipital region and rostromedial frontal cortex was present. Statistically significant functional connectivity was absent when the tasks were the default for the stimulus type (i.e., parity judgments of Arabic numerals and reading number words). This frontal region (BA 10) has previously been shown to be involved in goal-directed behaviour and maintenance of a specific task-set. We conclude that overriding stimulus-task defaults requires a modulation of connection strengths between cognitive modules and that the override mechanism predicted from cognitive theory is instantiated by frontal modulation of neural activity of brain regions specialized for sensory processing

Topics: Parity, fMRI, reading, task set, Numerical cognition, Granger causality, Psychology, BF1-990
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2015
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00321
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