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Sex Dependency of Inhibitory Control Functions


Sex Dependency of Inhibitory Control Functions

Farshad A Mansouri et al. Biol Sex Differ.


Background: Inhibition of irrelevant responses is an important aspect of cognitive control of a goal-directed behavior. Females and males show different levels of susceptibility to neuropsychological disorders such as impulsive behavior and addiction, which might be related to differences in inhibitory brain functions.

Methods: We examined the effects of 'practice to inhibit', as a model of rehabilitation approach, and 'music', as a salient contextual factor in influencing cognition, on the ability of females and males to perform a stop-signal task that required inhibition of initiated or planned responses. In go trials, the participants had to rapidly respond to a directional go cue within a limited time window. In stop trials, which were presented less frequently, a stop signal appeared immediately after the go-direction cue and the participants had to stop their responses.

Results: We found a significant difference between females and males in benefiting from practice in the stop-signal task: the percentage of correct responses in the go trials increased, and the ability to inhibit responses significantly improved, after practice in females. While listening to music, females became faster but males became slower in responding to the go trials. Both females and males became slower in performing the go trials following an error in the stop trials; however, music significantly affected this post-error slowing depending on the sex. Listening to music decreased post-error slowing in females but had an opposite effect in males.

Conclusionc: Here, we show a significant difference in executive control functions and their modulation by contextual factors between females and males that might have implications for the differences in their propensity for particular neuropsychological disorders and related rehabilitation approaches.

Keywords: Executive control; Music effects; Post-error slowing; Sex dependency of cognitive functions; Stop-signal task.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The stop-signal task. In go trials, after the onset of the start cue (gray circle), the participants had to push a switch (located at the bottom of the monitor) with the dominant hand within 10 s. The switch pressing changed the start cue to a fixation point. If the participants kept the switch pressed for 450 ms, two small targets (white circles) appeared at the left and right sides of the fixation point. If the participant maintained switch pressing for another 300 ms, the fixation point was turned off and a direction cue (horizontal or vertical white bar) was presented at the center of the screen (black background). The horizontal bar instructed touching the right-side target (right go trial) but the vertical bar instructed touching the left-side target (left go trial). The left and right go trials were presented randomly and in the same proportion. The participants had to release the switch and touch the target within a limited time window (900 ms from the onset of the response cue). Failure to touch the screen in this time window was considered as a time-out error. After correct target selection, a feedback was given to the participants (the selected target flashed twice). After an erroneous target selection or early release of the switch, all the items were turned off and a visual error signal (a purple annulus) was shown for 500 ms. Events in the stop trials were similar to those in the go trials; however, after direction-cue onset, a red cross (stop signal) replaced the direction cue. The participants had to maintain pressing the switch after seeing the stop signal. Failure to stop the response in the stop trials (switch release) was considered as an error, and the error signal was shown
Fig 2
Fig 2
Sex-dependent modulation of behavior in stop-signal task. a The percentage of correct responses in different sessions are shown for male and female participants. In the second session, the percentage of correct responses significantly increased for female participants. b The percentage of correct responses in go trials did not significantly change as a result of listening to music. c The normalized response time in go trials is shown in sessions with and without music for female and male participants. Response time decreased in females but increased in males, while the participants listened to music. Error bars in all the figures show the standard error
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Interaction of music and error in influencing the behavior. a The normalized response times in after-error (EC: a correct go trial preceded an error in the stop trial) and after-correct (CC: a correct go trial preceded by a correct go trial) trials are shown in music and silent sessions for female and male participants. Response time was longer in the after-error trials in female and male participants. bc Post-error slowing (EC–CC) was modulated by music depending on the sex of the participants. b While listening to music, post-error slowing decreased in females but it was increased in male participants. c The difference in normalized response time between silent and music sessions is shown in the after-error and after-correct trials
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Effects of practice and music on stop-signal reaction time (SSRT). a Response time decreased in the go trials that were preceded by the stop trials. Normalized response time is shown in consecutive sessions in after-stop (a correct go trial that was preceded by a correct stop trial) and after-go trials (a correct go trial that was preceded by a correct go trial). In both sessions, response time decreased after a correct stop trial. bc SSRT was calculated as the difference between the mean response time in the correct go trials and the mean of stop-signal delays (the delay between the onsets of stop signal and go-direction cue). b In both females and males, there was no significant change in SSRT while the participants listened to music. c SSRT is shown in the first and second sessions. SSRT in the second session decreased in females, but not in males, indicating that practice decreased SSRT in females but not in males

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