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Brain Activation in the Prefrontal Cortex during Motor and Cognitive Tasks in Adults

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DOI: 10.4236/jbbs.2016.612042    1,176 Downloads   1,782 Views Citations


The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an important role in cognitive function, involved in Executive Functions (EFs) such as planning, working memory, and inhibition. Activation in the PFC also occurs during some motor activities. One commonly used tool to assess EF is the Tower of Hanoi, demonstrating sensitivity to PFC dysfunction. However, limited neuroimaging evidence is available to support the contribution of the PFC in the Tower of Hanoi task. In the current study, we use functional near infrared (fNIR) spectroscopy to examine hemodynamic responses associated with neural activity in the PFC in adults as they participate in the Tower of Hanoi task. We compared changes in cerebral oxygenation during resting, a motor task (tapping), and the Tower of Hanoi in 16 neurotypical adults, with measures of relative changes in concentration of oxygenated hemoglobin (Δoxy-Hb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (Δdeoxy-Hb) taken throughout tasks, as well as total hemoglobin (ΔHbT) and oxygenation (Δoxy). Performance on the Tower of Hanoi was measured by the number of moves used to complete each level and the highest level of successful performance (3, 4, or 5 disks). We found a significant higher value of Δoxy-Hb and Δoxy in dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) during the Tower of Hanoi as compared to tapping and resting. Significant changes in Δdeoxy-Hb and ΔHbT during the Tower of Hanoi were found in the right DLPFC only. These results support the notion that the Tower of Hanoi task requires higher levels of PFC activity than a similar motor task with low executive function demands.

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Liang, L. , Shewokis, P. and Getchell, N. (2016) Brain Activation in the Prefrontal Cortex during Motor and Cognitive Tasks in Adults. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, 6, 463-474. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2016.612042.

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