Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Executive control coordinates, prioritizes, and selects task-relevant representations under conditions of conflict. Behavioral evidence has documented that executive resources are separable, finite, and can be temporarily depleted; however, the neural basis for such resource limits are largely unknown. Here, we investigate the neural correlates underlying the fatigue or depletion of interference control, an executive process hypothesized to mediate competition among candidate memory representations. Using a pre/post continuous acquisition fMRI design, we demonstrate that, compared with a nondepletion control group, the depletion group showed a fatigue-induced performance deficit that was specific to interference control and accompanied by a left-to-right shift in the network of active regions. Specifically, we observed decreased BOLD signal in the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), striatum, and the cerebellum, along with a corresponding increase in right hemisphere regions including the IFG, insular, and temporal cortex. Depletion-related changes in activation magnitude correlated with behavioral changes, suggesting that decreased recruitment of task-relevant regions, including left IFG, contributes to impaired interference control. These results provide new evidence about the brain dynamics of “process-specific” fatigue and suggest that depletion may pose a significant limitation on the cognitive and neural resources available for executive control.