New research: Toward an understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying dual-task performance: Contribution of comparative approaches using animal models


• The dual-task paradigm has been widely used to study higher-order cognitive functions in humans.
• Human studies have been unable to answer many key questions regarding the neural basis of dual-tasking.
• Animals possess sufficient cognitive capability to perform dual tasks.
• We provide a comprehensive review of behavioral and neurobiological dual-task experiments in animals.
• Cross-species similarities in dual-task performance make animals good models for neurobiological investigations.
• We propose a framework to link neural evidence in animal studies to the results obtained in human studies.

The study of dual-task performance in human subjects has received considerable interest in cognitive neuroscience because it can provide detailed insights into the neural mechanisms underlying higher-order cognitive control. Despite many decades of research, our understanding of the neurobiological basis of dual-task performance is still limited, and some critical questions are still under debate. Recently, behavioral and neurophysiological studies of dual-task performance in animals have begun to provide intriguing evidence regarding how dual-task information is processed in the brain. In this review, we first summarize key evidence in neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies in humans and discuss possible reasons for discrepancies across studies. We then provide a comprehensive review of the literature on dual-task studies in animals and provide a novel working hypothesis that may reconcile the divergent results in human studies toward a unified view of the mechanisms underlying dual-task processing. Finally, we propose possible directions for future dual-task experiments in the framework of comparative cognitive neuroscience.

Kei Watanabe and Shintaro Funahashi
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (in press). DOI: