The neuropsychopharmacology of action inhibition: cross-species translation of the stop-signal and go/no-go tasks

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008 Aug;199(3):439-56. doi: 10.1007/s00213-008-1127-6. Epub 2008 Jun 10.


Background and rationale: The term 'action inhibition' encapsulates the ability to prevent any form of planned physical response. Growing evidence suggests that different 'stages' or even subtypes of action inhibition activate subtly different neuropharmacological and neuroanatomical processes.

Objectives: In this review, we present evidence from two commonly used and apparently similar behavioural tests, the stop-signal task and the go/no-go task, to determine if these have similar neuroanatomical and neurochemical modulation.

Results: Whilst performance of the stop-signal and go/no-go tasks is modulated across only subtly different anatomical networks, serotonin (5-HT) is strongly implicated in inhibitory control on the go/no-go but not the stop-signal task, whereas the stop-signal reaction time appears more sensitive to the action of noradrenaline.

Conclusions: There is clear neuropharmacological and neuroanatomical evidence that stop-signal and go/no-go tasks represent different forms of action inhibition. This evidence translates with remarkable consistency across species. We discuss the possible implications of this evidence with respect to the development of novel therapeutic treatments for disorders in which inhibitory deficits are prominent and debilitating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Catecholamines / pharmacology
  • Catecholamines / physiology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / physiology
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology
  • Species Specificity


  • Catecholamines
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin