Cognitive flexibility and N2/P3 event-related brain potentials.
Task switching is often considered for evaluating limitations of cognitive flexibility. Switch costs are behavioural indices of limited cognitive flexibility, and switch costs may be decomposable into stimulus- and response-related fractions, as conjectured by the domain hypothesis of cognitive flexibility. According to the domain hypothesis, there exist separable stimulus- and response-related neural networks for cognitive flexibility, which should be discernible as distinct event-related potentials (ERPs). The present card-matching study allowed isolating stimulus- and response-related switch costs, while measuring ERPs evoked by task cues and target stimuli with a focus on the target-locked N2/P3 complex. Behavioural data revealed that both stimulus-task and response-task bindings contribute to switch costs. Cue-locked ERPs yielded larger anterior negativity/posterior positivity in response to switch cues compared to repeat cues. Target-locked ERPs revealed separable ERP correlates of stimulus- and response-related switch costs. P3 waveforms with fronto-central scalp distributions emerged as a corollary of stimulus-related switch costs. Fronto-centrally distributed N2 waveforms occurred when stimulus-task and response-task bindings contributed jointly to switch costs. The reported N2/P3 ERP data are commensurate with the domain hypothesis according to which there exist separable stimulus- and response-related neural networks for cognitive flexibility.