Response control networks are selectively modulated by attention to rare events and memory load regardless of the need for inhibition

Sobanawartiny Wijeakumar, Vincent A. Magnotta, Aaron T. Buss, Joseph P. Ambrose, Timothy A. Wifall, Eliot Hazeltine, John P. Spencer

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Recent evidence has sparked debate about the neural bases of response selection and inhibition. In the current study, we employed two reactive inhibition tasks, the Go/Nogo (GnG) and Simon tasks, to examine questions central to these debates. First, we investigated whether a fronto-cortical-striatal system was sensitive to the need for inhibition per se or the presentation of infrequent stimuli, by manipulating the proportion of trials that do not require inhibition (Go/Compatible trials) relative to trials that require inhibition (Nogo/Incompatible trials). A cortico-subcortical network composed of insula, putamen, and thalamus showed greater activation on salient and infrequent events, regardless of the need for inhibition. Thus, consistent with recent findings, key parts of the fronto-cortical-striatal system are engaged by salient events and do not appear to play a selective role in response inhibition. Second, we examined how the fronto-cortical-striatal system is modulated by working memory demands by varying the number of stimulus-response (SR) mappings. Right inferior parietal lobule showed decreasing activation as the number of SR mappings increased, suggesting that a form of associative memory - rather than working memory - might underlie performance in these tasks. A broad motor planning and control network showed similar trends that were also modulated by the number of motor responses required in each task. Finally, bilateral lingual gyri were more robustly engaged in the Simon task, consistent with the role of this area in shifts of visuo-spatial attention. The current study sheds light on how the fronto-cortical-striatal network is selectively engaged in reactive control tasks and how control is modulated by manipulations of attention and memory load.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-344
Number of pages14
Early online date17 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2015


  • Response inhibition
  • Response selection
  • Go/Nogo
  • Simon
  • fMRI
  • Insula

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