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The role of prefrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex in task switching
Human ability to switch from one cognitive task to another involves both endogenous preparation without an external stimulus and exogenous adjustment in response to the external stimulus. In an event-related functional MRI study, participants performed pairs of two tasks that are either the same (task repetition) or different (task switch) from each other. On half of the trials, foreknowledge about task repetition or task switch was available. On the other half, it was not. Endogenous preparation seems to involve lateral prefrontal cortex (BA 46/45) and posterior parietal cortex (BA 40). During preparation, higher activation increases in inferior lateral prefrontal cortex and superior posterior parietal cortex were associated with foreknowledge than with no foreknowledge. Exogenous adjustment seems to involve superior prefrontal cortex (BA 8) and posterior parietal cortex (BA 39/40) in general. During a task switch with no foreknowledge, activations in these areas were relatively higher than during a task repetition with no foreknowledge. These results suggest that endogenous preparation and exogenous adjustment for a task switch may be independent processes involving different brain areas.