Stimulus-response compatibility (SRC) is a general term describing the relationship between a triggering stimulus and its associated motor response. The relationship between stimulus and response can be manipulated at the level of the set of stimulus and response characteristics (set-level) or at the level of the mapping between the individual elements of the stimulus and response sets (element-level). We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the effects of SRC on functional activation in cortical motor areas. Using behavioral tasks to separately evaluate set- and element-level compatibility, and their interaction, we measured the volume of functional activation in 11 cortical motor areas, in the anterior frontal cortex, and in the superior temporal lobe. Element-level compatibility effects were associated with significant activation in the pre-supplementary motor area (preSMA), the dorsal (PMd) and ventral (PMv) premotor areas, and the parietal areas (inferior, superior, intraparietal sulcus, precuneus). The activation was lateralized to the right hemisphere for most of the areas. Set-level compatibility effects resulted in significant activation in the inferior frontal gyri, anterior cingulate and cingulate motor areas, the PMd, PMv, preSMA, the parietal areas (inferior, superior, intraparietal sulcus, precuneus), and in the superior temporal lobe. Activation in the majority of these areas was lateralized to the left hemisphere. Finally, there was an interaction between set and element-level compatibility in the middle and superior frontal gyri, in an area co-extensive with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, suggesting that this area provided the neural substrate for common processing stages, such as working memory and attention, which are engaged when both levels of SRC are manipulated at once.
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We thank T. Jerde and H. Foster for help with data processing and A.P. Georgopoulos and G. Oehlert for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health Grant NS 32437, NS40106, the Charles A. Dana Foundation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Legion Chair in Brain Sciences, the National Institutes of Health and a National Research Resource Grant P41 RR08079.