In category learning, explicit processes function through the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and implicit processes function through the basal ganglia. Research suggested that these two systems compete with each other. The goal of this study was to shed light on this theory. 15 undergraduate subjects took part in an event-related experiment that required them to categorize computer-generated line-stimuli, which varied in length and/or angle depending on condition. Subjects participated in an explicit "rule-based" (RB) condition and an implicit "information-integration" (II) condition while connected to a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) apparatus, which measured the hemodynamic response (HR) in their PFC. Each condition contained 2 blocks. We hypothesized that the competition between explicit and implicit systems (COVIS) would be demonstrated if, by block 2, task-accuracy was approximately equal across conditions with PFC activity being comparatively higher in the II condition. This would indicate that subjects could learn the categorization task in both conditions but were only able to decipher an explicit rule in the RB condition; their PFC would struggle to do so in the II condition, resulting in perpetually high activation. In accordance with predictions, results revealed no difference in accuracy across conditions with significant difference in channel activation. There were channel trends (p<.1) which showed PFC activation decrease in the RB condition and increase in the II condition by block 2. While these results support our predictions, they are largely nonsignificant, which could be attributed to the event-related design. Future research should utilize a larger samples size for improved statistical power.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair

Bohil, Corey


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program



Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Campus Access

Length of Campus-only Access

3 years

Release Date

August 2019