Shifting set refers to the process of updating or "shifting" cognitive strategies in response to changes in the environment.
For example: in some neuropsychological tests, patients are first asked to perform according to some rule (e.g., given a choice between a red and a yellow object, always choose the red object).
Next, patients are asked to switch to a new rule (e.g., always choose the larger object, regardless of color).
Successful performance requires the ability to abandon an old strategy and start responding according to a new rule.
Shifting set with Patient
Patients with damage to the frontal lobes are often impaired at tasks which require shifting set. They may have difficulty abandoning the old rule -- continuing to pick the red object even though they know their choice is wrong -- and they may also have difficulty learning a new rule to replace the old one.
Patients with Parkinson's disease may also have trouble shifting set. This is because Parkinson's disease destroys neurons in the substantia nigra, a brain region that normally helps regulate function in the frontal lobes; as the neurons in the substantia nigra die, the frontal lobes may become somewhat dysfunctional.
by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain