Relation between Parametric Change of the Workload and Prefrontal Cortex Activity during a Modified Version of the 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' Task

Yoshiki Yamauchi*, Senichiro Kikuchi, Fumikazu Miwakeichi, Kenji Matsumoto, Masaki Nishida, Makio Ishiguro, Eiju Watanabe, Satoshi Kato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: Modified rock, paper, scissors (RPS) tasks have previously been used in neuroscience to investigate activity of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). In this study, we investigated hemodynamic changes in the PFC using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) during a modified RPS task in which each subject's successful performance rate was equalized; the workload was increased parametrically in order to reveal the resulting pattern of PFC activation. Methods: The subjects were 20 healthy adults. During RPS, the player uses hand gestures to represent rock, paper, and scissors. Rock beats scissors, paper beats rock, and scissors beats paper. In the modified RPS task, the player is instructed to lose intentionally against the computer hand; the computer goes first and the player follows. The interstimulus interval (ISI) level was adjusted with 11 steps. If the level rose, the ISI decreased and the workload increased parametrically. The maximal level (maxLv: the shortest ISI and the biggest workload) in which a subject could perform the task correctly was determined for every subject during rehearsal of the task prior to the experiment. Lowering the level from the maxLv made the task easier. Hemodynamic changes were measured by NIRS over 4 task levels (maxLv-3, maxLv-2, maxLv-1 and maxLv). Results: The hemodynamic changes in the left lateral PFC and bilateral Brodmann area 6 rose significantly with the increase in workload and presented a linear trend. Conclusion: These results suggest that PFC activation may linearly increase with increased workload during a modified RPS task in which successful performance rates of subjects are equalized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-33
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Parametric design
  • Prefrontal cortex activation
  • Rock, paper, scissors task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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