The Temporal Dynamics of Response Inhibition and their Modulation by Cognitive Control

Brain Topogr. 2017 Jul;30(4):486-501. doi: 10.1007/s10548-017-0566-y. Epub 2017 Apr 29.


Behavioral adjustments require interactions between distinct modes of cognitive control and response inhibition. Hypothetically, fast and global inhibition is exerted in the reactive control mode, whereas proactive control enables the preparation of inhibitory pathways in advance while relying on the slower selective inhibitory system. We compared the temporal progression of inhibition in the reactive and proactive control modes using simultaneous electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyography (EMG) recordings. A selective stop signal task was used where go stimuli required bimanual responses, but only one hand's response had to be suppressed in stop trials. Reactive and proactive conditions were incorporated by non-informative and informative cues, respectively. In 47% of successful stop trials, subthreshold EMG activity was detected that was interrupted as early as 150 ms after stop stimulus presentation, indicating that inhibition occurs much earlier than previously thought. Inhibition latencies were similar across the reactive and proactive control modes. The EMG of the responding hand in successful selective stop trials indicated a global suppression of ongoing motor actions in the reactive condition, and less inhibitory interference on the ongoing actions in the proactive condition. Group-level second order blind separation (SOBI) was applied to the EEG to dissociate temporally overlapping event-related potentials. The components capturing the N1 and N2 were larger in the reactive than the proactive condition. P3 activity was distributed across four components, three of which were augmented in the proactive condition. Thus, although EEG indices were modulated by the control mode, the inhibition latency remained unaffected.

Keywords: EMG; N1; N2; P3; SOBI; Stop signal task.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300 / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Young Adult