The ability of inhibiting impulsive urges is paramount for human behavior. Such successful response inhibition has consistently been associated with activity in pFC. The current study aims to unravel the differential involvement of different areas within right pFC for successful action restraint versus action cancellation. These two conceptually different aspects of action inhibition were measured with a go/no-go task (action restraint) and a stop signal task (action cancellation). Localization of relevant prefrontal activation was based on fMRI data. Significant task-related activation during successful action restraint was localized for each participant individually in right anterior insula (rAI), right superior frontal gyrus, and pre-SMA. Activation during successful action cancellation was localized in rAI, right middle frontal gyrus, and pre-SMA. Subsequently, fMRI-guided continuous thetaburst stimulation was applied to these regions. Results showed that the disruption of neural activity in rAI reduced both the ability to restrain (go/no-go) and cancel (stop signal) responses. In contrast, continuous thetaburst stimulation-induced disruption of the right superior frontal gyrus specifically impaired the ability to restrain from responding (go/no-go), while leaving the ability for action cancellation largely intact. Stimulation applied to right middle frontal gyrus and pre-SMA did not affect inhibitory processing in neither of the two tasks. These findings provide a more comprehensive perspective on the role of pFC in inhibition and cognitive control. The results emphasize the role of inferior frontal regions for global inhibition, whereas superior frontal regions seem to be specifically relevant for successful action restraint.
Dambacher, F., Sack, A. T., Lobbestael, J., Arntz, A., Brugmann, S., & Schuhmann, T. (2014). The role of right prefrontal and medial cortex in response inhibition: interfering with action restraint and action cancellation using transcranial magnetic brain stimulation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(8), 1775-1784. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_00595