Cognitive control allows individuals to adjust thoughts and actions on-the-fly upon discovering conflict across informational sources during processing;it is therefore critical to both memory and language functions (e.g., recognizing objects correctly despite interfering memoranda;recovering from temporary misinterpretation during reading or spoken language comprehension). The overall objective of this project is to understand the interplay among multiple cognitive systems, whether the same cognitive control functions operate systematically across conflict types that arise in different domains, and to characterize the behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie their interaction. In doing so, this research will contribute to our knowledge about shared language and memory functions and the extent to which cognitive control engagement in one domain influences performance in another. Specifically, this proposal tests whether the experience of information conflict within memory alters subsequent conflict-control procedures in language processing, ultimately deriving quantitative assessments of these effects in both brain and behavior. This project has three specific aims. The first is to test how the experience of information-conflict during non- linguistc task performance (and thus the engagement of cognitive control) affects real-time language processing, indexed by eye-movement patterns to objects in a scene as listeners carry out spoken instructions. Experiment 1 harnesses the phenomenon of "conflict adaptation" (wherein conflict detection triggers cognitive control to facilitate conflict resolution on a subsequent tril) to examine whether listeners dynamically adjust language processing behavior (e.g., easier recovery from misinterpretation) following conflict detection in the Stroop task, a classic cognitive control measure. Second, this proposal examines neurobiological changes during language processing depending on whether cognitive control has been triggered by a preceding conflict trial outside the syntactic domain. Experiment 2 utilizes single-trial analysis of fMRI daa to form a quantitative link between fMRI signal amplitude and both eye-tracking and behavioral indexes of resolving syntactic ambiguity. Third, this proposal investigates the extent to which a wide range of ostensibly different tasks share a common conflict-control mind state. Experiment 3 includes a battery of memory and language tasks with high cognitive control demands to test whether machine-learning algorithms (i.e., multi-voxel pattern analysis, or MVPA) can accurately classify conflict states broadly across domains. The proposed experiments adopt converging eye-tracking and neuroimaging techniques (single-trial and multivariate analyses) to help address a central issue in cognitive science: how language processing is relatively affected by the engagement status of the cognitive control system. Because cognitive control deficits affect patients'memory and language performance alike, elucidating the dynamic interplay between these cognitive systems has major health implications.
The results from this research will inform an understanding of common language and memory functions in the human mind and brain, insights that can be applied to public knowledge about how various cognitive systems develop typically and atypically during childhood, and how they fail following injury to the underlying neurobiological structures. Critically, we will be able to draw conclusions about the malleability (or causal nature) of certain language and memory processes, findings that can ultimately be disseminated to and used in clinical, educational, and government settings.