Brain Regions Engaged by Part- and Whole-task Performance in a Video Game: A Model-based Test of the Decomposition Hypothesis

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Part- and whole-task conditions were created by manipulating the presence of certain components of the Space Fortress video game. A cognitive model was created for two-part games that could be combined into a model that performed the whole game. The model generated predictions both for behavioral patterns and activation patterns in various brain regions. The activation predictions concerned both tonic activation that was constant in these regions during performance of the game and phasic activation that occurred when there was resource competition. The model's predictions were confirmed about how tonic and phasic activation in different regions would vary with condition. These results support the Decomposition Hypothesis that the execution of a complex task can be decomposed into a set of information-processing components and that these components combine unchanged in different task conditions. In addition, individual differences in learning gains were predicted by individual differences in phasic activation in those regions that displayed highest tonic activity. This individual difference pattern suggests that the rate of learning of a complex skill is determined by capacity limits.




Published In

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 12, 3983-3997.