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Poster A104

The effect of surprise on cognitive flexibility and motor control: an EEG study

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Stefania C Ficarella1 (, Sébastien Angelliaume1, Thomas Rakotomamonjy1, Nicolas Lantos1, Marielle Plat-Robain2, Jean-Christophe Sarrazin1; 1ONERA – The French Aerospace Lab, Salon-de-Provence, France, 2Airbus Operations SAS, Toulouse, France

Inhibitory control is a pivotal cognitive function necessary to flexibly adapt one's behavior to an ever-changing environment (Yu et al., 2023). Under conditions requiring quick decisions, such as piloting an aircraft, failures in inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility at large, can result in slowed responses and/or errors. Unexpected rare events are known to capture attention (e.g. Horstmann, 2002) and generate surprise, which can lead to global action inhibition (Wessel & Aron, 2013, 2017). Moreover, surprising events influence the electrophysiological brain’s response (Mousavi et al., 2020, 2022) and differently so, depending on their probability of appearance (Gomez et al., 2019). However, little is known about how the relative frequency of task-(ir)relevant events affects decision making and motor control. In this EEG study, 16 participants performed a modified version of the Task Switching paradigm, while oculomotor, behavioural and EEG data were collected. Behavioural results show that rare task-irrelevant stimuli affect performance differently, depending on whether task instructions forced participants to pay attention to them or not. Reaction times are affected by cognitive flexibility, enhanced on task switch trials, and, interestingly, by its interaction with motor control, necessary when a different hand was required, compared to the previous trial, to execute the response (effector switch). Finally a 3-way interaction between cognitive flexibility (trial type), surprise (task-irrelevant stimulus frequency) and motor control (effector switch) suggests that surprise negatively affects decision making performance, especially when a conflict arises between cognitive and motor control. Oculomotor and EEG results will be discussed.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Monitoring & inhibitory control


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April 13–16  |  2024