The dynamics of proactive and reactive cognitive control processes in the human brain.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


In this study, we leveraged the high temporal resolution of EEG to examine the neural mechanisms underlying the flexible regulation of cognitive control that unfolds over different timescales. We measured behavioral and neural effects of color-word incongruency, as different groups of participants performed three different versions of color-word Stroop tasks in which the relative timing of the color and word features varied from trial to trial. For this purpose, we used a standard Stroop color identification task with equal congruent-to-incongruent proportions (50%/50%), along with two versions of the "Reverse Stroop" word identification tasks, for which we manipulated the incongruency proportion (50%/50% and 80%/20%). Two canonical ERP markers of neural processing of stimulus incongruency, the frontocentral negative polarity incongruency wave (NINC) and the late positive component (LPC), were evoked across the various conditions. Results indicated that color-word incongruency interacted with the relative feature timing, producing greater neural and behavioral effects when the task-irrelevant stimulus preceded the target, but still significant effects when it followed. Additionally, both behavioral and neural incongruency effects were reduced by nearly half in the word identification task (Reverse Stroop 50/50) relative to the color identification task (Stroop 50/50), with these effects essentially fully recovering when incongruent trials appeared only infrequently (Reverse Stroop 80/20). Across the conditions, NINC amplitudes closely paralleled RTs, indicating this component is sensitive to the overall level of stimulus conflict. In contrast, LPC amplitudes were largest with infrequent incongruent trials, suggesting a possible readjustment role when proactive control is reduced. These findings thus unveil distinct control mechanisms that unfold over time in response to conflicting stimulus input under different contexts.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Appelbaum, L Gregory, C Nicolas Boehler, Lauren A Davis, Robert J Won and Marty G Woldorff (2014). The dynamics of proactive and reactive cognitive control processes in the human brain. J Cogn Neurosci, 26(5). pp. 1021–1038. 10.1162/jocn_a_00542 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Marty G. Woldorff

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Woldorff's main research interest is in the cognitive neuroscience of attention. At each and every moment of our lives, we are bombarded by a welter of sensory information coming at us from a myriad of directions and through our various sensory modalities -- much more than we can fully process. We must continuously select and extract the most important information from this welter of sensory inputs. How the human brain accomplishes this is one of the core challenges of modern cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Woldorff uses a combination of electrophysiological (ERP, MEG) and functional neuroimaging (fMRI) methods to study the time course, functional neuroanatomy, and mechanisms of attentional processes. This multimethodological approach is directed along several main lines of research: (1) The influence of attention on sensory and perceptual processing; (2) Cognitive and attentional control mechanisms; (3) The role of attention in multisensory environments; (4) The interactive relationship between attention and reward; and (5) The role of attention in perceptual awareness.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.