Response selection is the mental process of choosing representations for appropriate motor behaviors given particular environmental stimuli and one's current task situation and goals. Many cognitive theories of response selection postulate a unitary process. That is, one central response-selection mechanism chooses appropriate responses in most, if not all, task situations. However, neuroscience research shows that neural processing is often localized based on the type of information processed. Our current experiments investigate whether response selection is unitary or stimulus specific by manipulating response-selection difficulty in two functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments using spatial and nonspatial stimuli. The same participants were used in both experiments. We found spatial response selection involves the right prefrontal cortex, the bilateral premotor cortex, and the dorsal parietal cortical regions (precuneus and superior parietal lobule). Nonspatial response selection, conversely, involves the left prefrontal cortex and the more ventral posterior cortical regions (left middle temporal gyrus, left inferior parietal lobule, and right extrastriate cortex). Our brain activation data suggest a cognitive model for response selection in which different brain networks mediate the choice of appropriate responses for different types of stimuli. This model is consistent with behavioral research suggesting that responseselection processing may be more flexible and adaptive than originally proposed.

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