Abstract

This EEG study investigates the electrophysiological activity underlying processes of stimulus and response selection, and their executive orchestration via long-range functional connectivity under conflict condition, in order to shed more light on how these brain dynamics shape individual behavioral performance. Participants (n = 91) performed a modified flanker task, in which bilateral visual stimulation and a bimanual response pattern were employed to isolate the stimulus and response selection-related lateralized activity. First, we identified conflict-related markers of task-relevant processes; most importantly, the stimulus and response selection were evidenced by contra–ipsilateral differences in visual and motor activity, respectively, and executive control was evidenced by modulations of midfrontal activity. Second, we identified conflict-related functional connectivity between midfrontal and other task-relevant areas. The results showed that interregional phase synchronization in theta band was centered at the midfrontal site, interpreted here as a “hub” of executive communication. Importantly, the theta functional connectivity was more robust under the condition of increased demands for stimulus and response selection, including connectivity between the medial frontal cortex and the lateral frontal and motor areas, as well as cross-frequency theta–alpha coupling between the medial frontal cortex and contralateral visual areas. Third, we showed that individual differences in the measured conflict-related EEG activity, particularly the midfrontal N2, theta power, and global theta connectivity, predict the behavioral efficiency in conflict resolution.

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