A problem-solving task specialized for functional neuroimaging: Validation of the Scarborough adaptation of the Tower of London (S-TOL) using near-infrared spectroscopy

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.63). 03/2014; 8:185. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00185
Source: PubMed


Problem-solving is an executive function subserved by a network of neural structures of which the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is central. Whereas several studies have evaluated the role of the DLPFC in problem-solving, few standardized tasks have been developed specifically for use with functional neuroimaging. The current study adapted a measure with established validity for the assessment of problem-solving abilities to design a test more suitable for functional neuroimaging protocols. The Scarborough adaptation of the Tower of London (S-TOL) was administered to 38 healthy adults while hemodynamic oxygenation of the PFC was measured using 16-channel continuous-wave functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Compared to a baseline condition, problems that required two or three steps to achieve a goal configuration were associated with higher activation in the left DLPFC and deactivation in the medial PFC. Individuals scoring higher in trait deliberation showed consistently higher activation in the left DLPFC regardless of task difficulty, whereas individuals lower in this trait displayed less activation when solving simple problems. Based on these results, the S-TOL may serve as a standardized task to evaluate problem-solving abilities in functional neuroimaging studies.

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Available from: Anthony C Ruocco, May 08, 2014
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    • "Finally, it is important to consider that the personality—neural activation relationships observed in the present study may be limited to conditions in which participants were required to exert inhibitory control. It is possible that FFM personality traits may show distinctive associations with neural activation depending on the cognitive paradigms employed, such as those involving working memory or problem-solving ability (Gray et al., 2005; Ruocco et al., 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Inhibitory control is subserved in part by discrete regions of the prefrontal cortex whose functionality may be altered according to specific trait-based phenotypes. Using a unified model of normal-range personality traits, we examined activation within lateral and medial aspects of the prefrontal cortex during a manual go/no-go task. Evoked hemodynamic oxygenation within the prefrontal cortex was measured in 106 adults using a 16-channel continuous-wave functional near-infrared spectroscopy system. Within lateral regions of the prefrontal cortex, greater activation was associated with higher trait levels of extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness, and lower neuroticism. Higher agreeableness was also related to more activation in the medial prefrontal cortex during inhibitory control. These results suggest that personality traits reflecting greater emotional stability, extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness may be associated with more efficient recruitment of control processes subserved by lateral regions of the prefrontal cortex. These findings highlight key links between trait-based phenotypes and neural activation patterns in the prefrontal cortex underlying inhibitory control. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email:
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
    • "sampled at 2Hz) was used to calculate the baseline for the next block (see [17]). Rest epochs contained no specified cognitive tasks and no feedback on prefrontal asymmetry, and they were used to calculate the baseline for successive blocks; therefore, Rest epochs were not analysed. "

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    • "It particularly concentrates on the lateral prefrontal cortex, focusing on inhibitory control and cognitive shifting. The remaining four research articles deal with divergent issues, e.g., music (Ferreri et al., 2013), story-telling (Moro et al., 2013), the Scarborough adaptation of the Tower of London (Ruocco et al., 2014), and gambling (Bembich et al., 2014). While actual issues addressed in the studies are variable, they commonly deal with encoding and decoding processed of memories stored in the working memory system for our dairy activities. "

    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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