Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Suppressing irrelevant words is essential to successful speech production and is expected to involve general control mechanisms that reduce interference from task-unrelated processing. To investigate the neural mechanisms that suppress visual word interference, we used fMRI and a Stroop task, using a block design with an event-related analysis. Participants indicated with a finger press whether a visual stimulus was colored pink or blue. The stimulus was either the written word “BLUE,” the written word “PINK,” or a string of four Xs, with word interference introduced when the meaning of the word and its color were “incongruent” (e.g., BLUE in pink hue) relative to congruent (e.g., BLUE in blue) or neutral (e.g., XXXX in pink). The participants also made color decisions in the presence of spatial interference rather than word interference (i.e., the Simon task). By blocking incongruent, congruent, and neutral trials, we identified activation related to the mechanisms that suppress interference as that which was greater at the end relative to the start of incongruency. This highlighted the role of the left head of caudate in the control of word interference but not spatial interference. The response in the left head of caudate contrasted to bilateral inferior frontal activation that was greater at the start than at the end of incongruency, and to the dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus which responded to a change in the motor response. Our study therefore provides novel insights into the role of the left head of caudate in the mechanisms that suppress word interference.