Physiological Markers of Motor Inhibition during Human Behavior

Trends Neurosci. 2017 Apr;40(4):219-236. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2017.02.006. Epub 2017 Mar 21.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies in humans have shown that many behaviors engage processes that suppress excitability within the corticospinal tract. Inhibition of the motor output pathway has been extensively studied in the context of action stopping, where a planned movement needs to be abruptly aborted. Recent TMS work has also revealed markers of motor inhibition during the preparation of movement. Here, we review the evidence for motor inhibition during action stopping and action preparation, focusing on studies that have used TMS to monitor changes in the excitability of the corticospinal pathway. We discuss how these physiological results have motivated theoretical models of how the brain selects actions, regulates movement initiation and execution, and switches from one state to another.

Keywords: action selection; corticospinal excitability; inhibitory control; reactive and proactive inhibition; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation