Temporally-precise disruption of prefrontal cortex informed by the timing of beta bursts impairs human action-stopping

Neuroimage. 2020 Nov 15;222:117222. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117222. Epub 2020 Aug 5.


Human action-stopping is thought to rely on a prefronto-basal ganglia-thalamocortical network, with right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC) posited to play a critical role in the early stage of implementation. Here we sought causal evidence for this idea in experiments involving healthy human participants. We first show that action-stopping is preceded by bursts of electroencephalographic activity in the beta band over prefrontal electrodes, putatively rIFC, and that the timing of these bursts correlates with the latency of stopping at a single-trial level: earlier bursts are associated with faster stopping. From this we reasoned that the integrity of rIFC at the time of beta bursts might be critical to successful stopping. We then used fMRI-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt rIFC at the approximate time of beta bursting. Stimulation prolonged stopping latencies and, moreover, the prolongation was most pronounced in individuals for whom the pulse appeared closer to the presumed time of beta bursting. These results help validate a model of the neural architecture and temporal dynamics of action-stopping. They also highlight the usefulness of prefrontal beta bursts to index an apparently important sub-process of stopping, the timing of which might help explain within- and between-individual variation in impulse control.

Keywords: Cognitive control; Electroencephalography; Oscillations; Stop signal task; Transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Beta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods