Theta oscillations during the processing of conflicts.

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Evidence for a causal role of superior frontal cortex theta oscillations during the processing of joint subliminal and conscious conflicts.

Abstract
Consciously and subliminally processed information can both lead to conflicts that hinder goal-directed behaviour. Conflict monitoring processes are required to cope with situations where one or multiple conflicts occur. It has been suggested, that medial-frontal theta oscillations are associated with the implementation of cognitive control and that conflicts increase theta band activity. Still, a causal mechanistic understanding of theta oscillations during the resolution of combined subliminal and conscious conflicts is missing. To investigate this, we combined EEG signal decomposition methods with EEG beamforming approaches and used the obtained information to modulate theta oscillations with tACS in a second experiment. This showed that theta oscillations in the superior frontal cortex (BA6) and the left paracentral lobule encoded stimulus-related processes during the resolution of conflicts arising from both conscious and subliminal information processing. Response selection and motor-related processes encoded by theta oscillations were not similarly modulated. Thus, the joint modulation of conflicts by conscious and subliminal information affects very specific aspects of the information coded in theta oscillations. Results indicate, that entraining theta-oscillations using tACS modulates conflict resolution depending on the already existing theta activity level. In summary, the study provides further evidence that frontal theta oscillations play a crucial role in conflict monitoring and control.

PMID: 32911231 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Cortex. 2020 Aug 21;132:15-28

Authors: Giller F, Bensmann W, Mückschel M, Stock AK, Beste C

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