The strength of alpha and gamma oscillations predicts behavioral switch costs

Amy L. Proskovec, Alex I. Wiesman, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Cognitive flexibility is often examined using task-switch paradigms, whereby individuals either switch between tasks or repeat the same task on successive trials. The behavioral costs of switching in terms of accuracy and reaction time are well-known, but the oscillatory dynamics underlying such costs are poorly understood. Herein, we examined 25 healthy adults who performed a task-switching paradigm during magnetoencephalography (MEG). All MEG data were transformed into the time-frequency domain and significant oscillatory responses were imaged separately per condition (i.e., switch, repeat) using a beamformer. To determine the impact of task-switching on the neural dynamics, the resulting images were examined using paired-samples t-tests. Whole-brain correlations were also computed using the switch-related difference images (switch – repeat) and the switch-related behavioral data (i.e., switch costs). Our key results indicated stronger decreases in alpha and beta activity, and greater increases in gamma activity in nodes of the cingulo-opercular and fronto-parietal networks during switch relative to repeat trials. In addition, behavioral switch costs were positively correlated with switch-related differences in right frontal and inferior parietal alpha activity, and negatively correlated with switch effects in anterior cingulate and right temporoparietal gamma activity. In other words, participants who had a greater decrease in alpha or increase in gamma in these respective regions had smaller behavioral switch costs, which suggests that these oscillations are critical to supporting cognitive flexibility. In sum, we provide novel data linking switch effects and gamma oscillations, and employed a whole-brain approach to directly link switch-related oscillatory differences with switch-related performance differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-281
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cingulo-opercular network
  • Fronto-parietal network
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Oscillatory activity
  • Task switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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