Priming and backward influences in the human brain: processing interactions during the stroop interference effect.

Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
Cerebral Cortex (Impact Factor: 8.31). 04/2009; 19(11):2508-21. DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhp036
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study investigated neural processing interactions during Stroop interference by varying the temporal separation of relevant and irrelevant features of congruent, neutral, and incongruent colored-bar/color-word stimulus components. High-density event-related potentials (ERPs) and behavioral performance were measured as participants reported the bar color as quickly as possible, while ignoring the color words. The task-irrelevant color words could appear at 1 of 5 stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) relative to the task-relevant bar-color occurrence: -200 or -100 ms before, +100 or +200 ms after, or simultaneously. Incongruent relative to congruent presentations elicited slower reaction times and higher error rates (with neutral in between), and ERP difference waves containing both an early, negative-polarity, central-parietal deflection, and a later, more left-sided, positive-polarity component. These congruency-related differences interacted with SOA, showing the greatest behavioral and electrophysiological effects when irrelevant stimulus information preceded the task-relevant target and reduced effects when the irrelevant information followed the relevant target. We interpret these data as reflecting 2 separate processes: 1) a 'priming influence' that enhances the magnitude of conflict-related facilitation and conflict-related interference when a task-relevant target is preceded by an irrelevant distractor; and 2) a reduced 'backward influence' of stimulus conflict when the irrelevant distractor information follows the task-relevant target.

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