This study investigated the interaction between two executive function processes, inhibition and updating, through analyses of behavioral, neurophysiological, and effective connectivity metrics. Although many studies have focused on behavioral effects of executive function processes individually, few studies have examined the dynamic causal interactions between these two functions. A total of twenty participants from a local university performed a dual task combing flanker and n-back experimental paradigms, and completed the Operation Span Task designed to measure working memory capacity. We found that both behavioral (accuracy and reaction time) and neurophysiological (P300 amplitude and alpha band power) metrics on the inhibition task (i.e. flanker task) were influenced by the updating load (n-back level) and modulated by working memory capacity. Using independent component analysis, source localization (DIPFIT), and Granger Causality analysis of the EEG time-series data, the present study demonstrated that manipulation of cognitive demand in a dual executive function task influenced the causal neural network. We compared connectivity across three updating loads (n-back levels) and found that experimental manipulation of working memory load enhanced causal connectivity of a large-scale neurocognitive network. This network contains the prefrontal and parietal cortices, which are associated with inhibition and updating executive function processes. This study has potential applications in human performance modeling and assessment of mental workload, such as the design of training materials and interfaces for those performing complex multitasking under stress.
Kim, N. Y., Wittenberg, E., & Nam, C. S. (2017). Behavioral and neural correlates of executive function: Interplay between inhibition and updating processes. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 11(JUN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2017.00378