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, 13 (3), 214-28

The Neural Basis of Inhibition in Cognitive Control


The Neural Basis of Inhibition in Cognitive Control

Adam R Aron. Neuroscientist.


The concept of "inhibition" is widely used in synaptic, circuit, and systems neuroscience, where it has a clear meaning because it is clearly observable. The concept is also ubiquitous in psychology. One common use is to connote an active/willed process underlying cognitive control. Many authors claim that subjects execute cognitive control over unwanted stimuli, task sets, responses, memories, and emotions by inhibiting them, and that frontal lobe damage induces distractibility, impulsivity, and perseveration because of damage to an inhibitory mechanism. However, with the exception of the motor domain, the notion of an active inhibitory process underlying cognitive control has been heavily challenged. Alternative explanations have been provided that explain cognitive control without recourse to inhibition as concept, mechanism, or theory. This article examines the role that neuroscience can play when examining whether the psychological concept of active inhibition can be meaningfully applied in cognitive control research.

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