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A single mechanism for global and selective response inhibition under the influence of motor preparation.

  • Raud, Liisa1, 2, 3
  • Huster, René J4, 2
  • Ivry, Richard B5
  • Labruna, Ludovica5
  • Messel, Mari S4, 2, 6
  • Greenhouse, Ian7
  • 1 Multimodal Imaging and Cognitive Control Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway [email protected] , (Norway)
  • 2 Cognitive Electrophysiology Cluster, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway. , (Norway)
  • 3 Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway. , (Norway)
  • 4 Multimodal Imaging and Cognitive Control Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway. , (Norway)
  • 5 Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 6 Sunnaas Rehabilitation Hospital, Nesodden, Norway. , (Norway)
  • 7 Department of Human Physiology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.
Published Article
Journal of Neuroscience
Society for Neuroscience
Publication Date
Sep 14, 2020
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0607-20.2020
PMID: 32928884


In our everyday behavior, we frequently cancel one movement while continuing others. Two competing models have been suggested for the cancellation of such specific actions: 1) the abrupt engagement of a unitary global inhibitory mechanism followed by reinitiation of the continuing actions, or 2) a balance between distinct global and selective inhibitory mechanisms. To evaluate these models, we examined behavioral and physiological markers of proactive control, motor preparation, and response inhibition using a combination of behavioral task performance measures, electromyography, electroencephalography, and motor evoked potentials elicited with transcranial magnetic stimulation. Healthy human participants of either sex performed two versions of a stop signal task with cues incorporating proactive control: A unimanual task involving the initiation and inhibition of a single response, and a bimanual task involving the selective stopping of one of two prepared responses. Stopping latencies, motor evoked potentials, and frontal beta power (13-20 Hz) did not differ between the uni- and bimanual tasks. However, evidence for selective proactive control before stopping was manifest in the bimanual condition as changes in corticomotor excitability, mu (9-14 Hz), and beta (15-25 Hz) oscillations over sensorimotor cortex. Altogether, our results favor the recruitment of a single inhibitory stopping mechanism with the net behavioral output depending on the levels of action-specific motor preparation.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTResponse inhibition is a core function of cognitive flexibility and movement control. Previous research has suggested separate mechanisms for selective and global inhibition, yet the evidence is inconclusive. Another line of research has examined the influence of preparation for action stopping, or what is called proactive control, on stopping performance, yet the neural mechanisms underlying this interaction are unknown. We combined transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroencephalography, electromyography and behavioral measures to compare selective and global inhibition models and to investigate markers of proactive control. The results favor a single inhibitory mechanism over separate selective and global mechanisms, but indicate a vital role for preceding motor activity in determining whether and which actions will be stopped. Copyright © 2020 the authors.

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