Testing the domain-general nature of monitoring in the spatial and verbal cognitive domains

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Abstract

While it is well-established that monitoring the environment for the occurrence of relevant events represents a key executive function, it is still unclear whether such a function is mediated by domain-general or domain-specific mechanisms. We investigated this issue by combining event-related potentials (ERPs) with a behavioral paradigm in which monitoring processes (non-monitoring vs. monitoring) and cognitive domains (spatial vs. verbal) were orthogonally manipulated in the same group of participants. They had to categorize 3-dimensional visually presented words on the basis of either spatial or verbal rules. In monitoring blocks, they additionally had to check whether the word displayed a specific spatial configuration or whether it contained a certain consonant. The behavioral results showed slower responses for both spatial and verbal monitoring trials compared to non-monitoring trials. The ERP results revealed that monitoring did not interact with domain, thus suggesting the involvement of common underlying mechanisms. Specifically, monitoring acted on low-level perceptual processes (as expressed by an enhanced visual N1 wave and a sustained posterior negativity for monitoring trials) and on higher-level cognitive processes (involving larger positive modulations by monitoring trials over frontal and parietal scalp regions). The source reconstruction analysis of the ERP data confirmed that monitoring was associated with increased activity in visual areas and in right prefrontal and parietal regions (i.e., superior and inferior frontal gyri and posterior parietal cortex), which previous studies have linked to spatial and temporal monitoring. Our findings extend this research by supporting the domain-general nature of monitoring in the spatial and verbal domains.

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Capizzi, M., Ambrosini, E., Arbula, S., Mazzonetto, I., & Vallesi, A. (2016). Testing the domain-general nature of monitoring in the spatial and verbal cognitive domains. Neuropsychologia, 89, 83–95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.05.032

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