Dissociations of cognitive inhibition, response inhibition, and emotional interference: Voxelwise ALE meta-analyses of fMRI studies

Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Oct;39(10):4065-4082. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24232. Epub 2018 Jun 19.


Inhibitory control is the stopping of a mental process with or without intention, conceptualized as mental suppression of competing information because of limited cognitive capacity. Inhibitory control dysfunction is a core characteristic of many major psychiatric disorders. Inhibition is generally thought to involve the prefrontal cortex; however, a single inhibitory mechanism is insufficient for interpreting the heterogeneous nature of human cognition. It remains unclear whether different dimensions of inhibitory processes-specifically cognitive inhibition, response inhibition, and emotional interference-rely on dissociated neural systems. We conducted systematic meta-analyses of fMRI studies in the BrainMap database supplemented by PubMed using whole-brain activation likelihood estimation. A total of 66 study experiments including 1,447 participants and 987 foci revealed that while the left anterior insula was concordant in all inhibitory dimensions, cognitive inhibition reliably activated specific dorsal frontal inhibitory system, engaging dorsal anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and parietal areas, whereas emotional interference reliably implicated a ventral inhibitory system, involving the ventral surface of the inferior frontal gyrus and the amygdala. Response inhibition showed concordant clusters in the fronto-striatal system, including the dorsal anterior cingulate region and extended supplementary motor areas, the dorsal and ventral lateral prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, midbrain regions, and parietal regions. We provide an empirically derived dimensional model of inhibition characterizing neural systems underlying different aspects of inhibitory mechanisms. This study offers a fundamental framework to advance current understanding of inhibition and provides new insights for future clinical research into disorders with different types of inhibition-related dysfunctions.

Keywords: cognitive control; emotional interference; executive function; inhibition; response inhibition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult

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