Cognitive Neurodynamics

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 341–356 | Cite as

Flanker paradigm contains conflict and distraction factors with distinct neural mechanisms: an ERP analysis in a 2-1 mapping task

  • Shu ZhouEmail author
  • Shenglan Xiong
  • Wenwen Cheng
  • You WangEmail author
Research Article


Behavioral studies using the flanker 2-1 mapping task suggest that both stimulus and response conflicts contribute to flanker conflict effect. However, both are intertwined with distraction effect. Their underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. We applied a perceptual flanker 2-1 mapping task to 24 healthy young adults, while the event-related potentials were recorded. The task included stimulus-incongruent (SI), response-incongruent (RI), congruent (CO) and neutral (NE) stimuli. Our reaction time data demonstrated conflict effect, distraction effect and their interaction. Furthermore, the conflict factor successively enhanced the frontal P2 (160–240 ms), the posterior N2pc (200–240 ms), the fronto-central and the right frontal N2b (240–420 ms), and the posterior N2c (320–420 ms). Only the frontal P2 was larger for RI than SI. The distraction factor increased the right N2pc and reduced the left parietal P3b (460–480 ms). Overall, our findings suggested that the flanker conflict involved an early attentional processing of task-relevant and distractive information, and a later processing of conflict evaluation and response inhibition.


Cognitive control Flanker conflict Distraction 2-1 mapping Event-related potentials (ERP) Statistical parametric mapping (SPM) 



The authors are indebted to the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on this manuscript. This research was supported by Grants from the Nature Science Foundation of China (81200962) and the President Foundation of Nanfang Hospital at Southern Medical University (No. 2014Z009).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

11571_2019_9529_MOESM1_ESM.tif (47 kb)
Grand average ERP waveforms (from − 100 to 600 ms) are shown for 19 electrodes across all trial types, from the 24 subjects. The blue, green, red and purple traces correspond to group average ERP of the NE, CO, SI and RI conditions respectively. The baseline ERP measurement is the mean amplitude of 100 ms pre-stimulus interval. (TIFF 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Nanfang HospitalSouthern Medical UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, School of Public HealthSouthern Medical University (Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Tropical Disease Research)GuangzhouChina

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