Abstract

Dual-task scenarios require a coordinated regulation of the processing order of component tasks in light of capacity limitations during response selection. A number of behavioral and neuroimaging findings suggest a distinct set of control processes involved in preparing this task order. In this study, we investigated electrophysiological correlates of task-order preparation in a variant of the overlapping dual-task paradigm with cue-determined task order that resulted in trials with blockwise fixed task order as well as trials with repeated and switched task order in blocks with variable task order. During the cue–stimulus interval, we found an earlier centroparietal order-mixing positivity and a later parietal order-switch positivity. A decoding approach based on multivariate pattern analysis showed that the order-mixing positivity is a necessary prerequisite for successful order selection, whereas the order-switch positivity appears to facilitate the implementation of a new task order after its selection. These correlates of order preparation share striking similarities to commonly found potentials involved in the preparation of individual tasks in the (single-)task-switching paradigm, which is strong empirical support for the account that the underlying preparatory processes are to be considered as higher-level control signals that are implemented independently of specific task representations.

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