Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
In the Simon task, a conflict arises because irrelevant spatial information competes for response selection either facilitating or interfering with performance. Responses are faster when stimulus and response position correspond than when they do not. The FEFs, which have long been characterized for their role in oculomotor control, are also involved in the control of visuospatial attention when eye movements are not required. This study was aimed at investigating whether the FEFs contribute to spatial conflict. Double-pulse TMS was applied to the FEF of either left or right hemisphere during the execution of a Simon task at different time windows after the onset of the visual stimulus. A suppression of the Simon effect was observed after stimulation of the FEF for stimuli appearing in the contralateral hemifield when TMS was applied to the left hemisphere after stimulus onset (0–40 and 40–80 msec). A reduction of the correspondence effect was observed after right FEF TMS for stimuli presented in the left visual hemifield when stimulation was delivered in the 80–120 msec range after stimulus onset. These outcomes indicate that the FEF play a critical role in encoding spatial attribute of a stimulus for response priming, which is the prerequisite for response conflict in the Simon task. Moreover, our finding that the left FEF have a dominant role during spatial conflict extends the idea of the left-hemisphere lateralization of the motor network in action selection by suggesting that the FEF may constitute part of this network.