Midfrontal neural dynamics distinguish between general control and inhibition-specific processes in the stopping of motor actions

Sci Rep. 2019 Sep 10;9(1):13054. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-49476-4.


Action inhibition, the suppression of action impulses, is crucial for goal-directed behaviour. In order to dissociate neural mechanisms specific to motor stopping from general control processes which are also relevant for other types of conflict adjustments, we compared midfrontal oscillatory activity in human volunteers via EEG between action inhibition and two other types of motor conflicts, unexpected action activation and unexpected action change. Error rates indicated that action activation was significantly easier than the other two equally demanding tasks. Midfrontal brain oscillations were significantly stronger for inhibition than for both other conflict types. This was driven by increases in the delta range (2-3 Hz), which were higher for inhibition than activation and action change. Increases in the theta range (4-7 Hz) were equally high for inhibition and change, but lower for action activation. These findings suggest that inhibition is facilitated by neural mechanisms specific to motor-stopping, with midfrontal delta being a potentially selective marker of motor inhibition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Young Adult