Uncoupling response inhibition

Hayley MacDonald, Cathy M. Stinear, Winston D. Byblow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
174 Downloads (Pure)


The ability to prevent unwanted movement is fundamental to human behavior. When healthy adults must prevent a subset of prepared actions, execution of the remaining response is markedly delayed. We hypothesized that the delay may be sensitive to the degree of similarity between the prevented and continued actions. Fifteen healthy participants performed an anticipatory response inhibition task that required bilateral index finger extension or thumb abduction with homogeneous digit pairings, or a heterogeneous pairing of a combination of the two movements. We expected that the uncoupling of responses required for selective movement prevention would be more difficult with homogeneous (same digit, homologous muscles) than heterogeneous pairings (different digits, nonhomologous muscles). Measures of response times (and asynchrony between digits) during action execution, stopping performance, and electromyography from EIP (index finger extension) and APB (thumb abduction) were analyzed. As expected, selective trials produced a delay in the remaining movement compared with execution trials. Successful performance in the selective condition occurred via suppression of the entire prepared response and subsequent selective reinitiation of the remaining component. Importantly, the delayed reinitiation of motor output was sensitive to the degree of similarity between responses, occurring later but at a faster rate with homogeneous digits. There were persistent aftereffects from the selective condition on the motor system, which indicated greater levels of inhibition and a higher gain were necessary to successfully perform selective trials with homogeneous pairings. Overall, the results support a model of inhibition of a unitary response and selective reinitiation, rather than selective inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1492-500
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor/physiology
  • Female
  • Fingers/innervation
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Inhibition (Psychology)
  • Lifting
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Movement/physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance/physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult


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