Cognitive flexibility is an essential facet of everyday life, for example, when switching between different tasks. Neurophysiological accounts on cognitive flexibility have often focused on the task switch itself, disregarding preceding processes and the possible impact of “brain states” before engaging in cognitive flexibility. In a combined working memory/task-switching paradigm, we examined how neuronal processes during cognitive flexibility are interrelated to preceding neuronal processes across time and brain regions in a sample of n = 42 healthy adults. The interrelation of alpha- and theta-band-related processes over brain states ahead and during response selection was investigated on a functional neuroanatomical level using EEG-beamforming. The results showed that response selection processes (reflected by theta-band activity) seem to be strongly connected to “idling” and preparatory brain activity states (in both the theta- and alpha-band). Notably, the superior parietal cortex seems to play a crucial role by assembling alpha-band-related inhibitory processes from the rule- and goal-based actions during “idling” brain states, namely, short-term maintenance of rules (temporal cortex), task-set reconfiguration (superior frontal/precentral regions), and perceptual control (occipital cortex). This information is further relayed to response selection processes associated with theta-band activity. Notably, when the task has to be switched, theta-band activity in the superior frontal gyrus indicates a need for cognitive control in the “idling” brain state, which also seems to be relayed by BA7. The results indicate the importance of brain activity states ahead of response selection processes for cognitive flexibility.

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