The neural markers of an imminent failure of response inhibition

Neuroimage. 2012 Jan 16;59(2):1534-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.08.034. Epub 2011 Aug 27.


In his novel Ulysses, James Joyce wrote that mistakes are the "…portals of discovery". The present study investigated the pre-stimulus oscillatory EEG signatures of selective attention and motor preparation that predicted failures of overt response inhibition. We employed a trial-by-trial spatial cueing task using a go/no-go response paradigm with bilateral target stimuli. Subjects were required to covertly attend to the spatial location cued on each trial and respond to most of the number targets (go trials) at that location while withholding responses for one designated number (no-go trials). We analyzed the post-cue/pre-target spectral patterns comparing no-go trials in which a response occurred in error (False Alarms, FA) with trials in which participants correctly withheld a response (Correct Rejections, CR). We found that cue-induced occipital alpha (8-12 Hz) lateralization and inter-frequency anti-correlations between the motor beta (18-24 Hz) and pre-frontal theta (3-5 Hz) bands each independently predicted subsequent failures of response inhibition. Based on these findings, we infer that independent perceptual and motor mechanisms operate in parallel to contribute to failures of response inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis