Cerebellar Contributions to Proactive and Reactive Control in the Stop Signal Task: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies

Neuropsychol Rev. 2020 Sep;30(3):362-385. doi: 10.1007/s11065-020-09432-w. Epub 2020 Mar 18.


The cerebellum facilitates and modulates cognitive functions using forward and inverse internal models to predict and control behavior, respectively. Despite neuroimaging evidence that regions of the cerebellum are active during executive function (EF) tasks in general, little is known about the cerebellum's role in specific EFs and their underlying neural networks. Inhibitory control specifically may be facilitated by cerebellar internal models predicting responses during proactive control (withholding), and controlling responses during reactive control (inhibiting). The stop signal task (SST) is an inhibitory control task often used in neuroimaging studies to measure neural responses to both proactive and reactive control. Thus, in this review, we examine evidence for the cerebellum's role in inhibitory control by reviewing studies of healthy adults that utilized the SST in event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments. Twenty-one studies that demonstrated cerebellar results were eligible for review, including 749 participants, 28 contrasts, and 38 cerebellar clusters. We also performed activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of contrasts derived from reviewed studies. This review illustrates evidence for the cerebellum participating in inhibitory control independent of motor control. Most significant cerebellar clusters were located in the left posterior cerebellum, suggesting that it communicates with the established cortical right-lateralized inhibitory control network. Cerebellar activity was most consistently observed for contrasts that measured proactive control, and ALE analysis confirmed that left Crus I is most likely to be activated in studies of proactive control measuring monitoring and anticipation. Results suggest that the left posterior cerebellum may communicate with right frontal and parietal cortices, using forward models to predict appropriate responses. Reactive control contrasts indicated a possible role for cerebellar regions in enhancing inhibition efficiency through inverse models, but ALE meta-analysis did not confirm this hypothesis. Limitations in the current literature, clinical implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Executive function; Inhibitory control; Response inhibition; Stop signal; fMRI.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance*