“Stop” in the brain

Neural correlates of stopping. License: PD
Neural correlates of stopping. License: PD

A lot of the neuroscience focuses on “what happens in the brain when/before/after subject does/thinks/feels x“. A lot, but not all. So what happens in the brain when subject is specifically told to NOT do/think/feel x.

Jha et al. (2015) used magnetoencephalography, a non-invasive method to record the electrical activity of neurons, to see what the brain does during several variants of the Stop-Signal Task. The task is very simple: a right- or left- pointing arrow appears on a screen which tells the subject to press a button correspondingly to his left or his right. In 50% of the trials, immediately after the arrow, a vertical red line appears which tells the subject to stop, i.e. don’t press the button. The variants that the authors developed allowed them to modulate the context of the stopping signal, as well as assess the duration of the stopping process.

The main findings of the paper are the involvement of the right inferior frontal gyrus in the duration of stopping (meaning the time it takes to execute the Stop process) and the pre-supplementary motor area in context manipulation (meaning the more complex the context, the more activity in this region). Curiously, the right, but not left inferior frontal gyrus activation was irrespective to the hand used for stopping.

Reference: Jha A, Nachev P, Barnes G, Husain M, Brown P, & Litvak V (Nov 2015, Epub 9 Mar 2015). The Frontal Control of Stopping. Cerebral Cortex, 25: 4392–4406. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv027. Article | FREE PDF

By Neuronicus, 2 November 2015