ERP evidence of cognitive strategy change in motivational conditions with varying level of difficulty

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Recent research suggests that motivation improves cognitive functions but the particular mechanisms and precise behavioural conditions involved in such improvement still remain unknown. Particularly, it is unclear when in time and in which conditions these mechanisms are engaged. In the present study, we aimed to look at the neural markers of cognitive control strategies in different motivational conditions (motivation vs neutral) with different levels of difficulty (high vs low). Twenty-five adults completed a newly designed task in the four conditions above. Three ERP components were analysed: the CNV, LRP and P3b. We found that a motivational situation triggers the use of a proactive strategy when low cognitive control is required. A reactive strategy was used in a non-motivational situation and for difficult trials. Our study is also the first to provide evidence that the difference between proactive and reactive strategies occurs after the first stimulus (cue) is processed.

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