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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

March 2005, Vol. 17, No. 3, Pages 483-493
(doi: 10.1162/0898929053279513)
© 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Neurophysiology of Response Competition: Motor Cortex Activation and Inhibition following Subliminal Response Priming
Article PDF (431.58 KB)

Some widely used tasks in cognitive neuroscience depend on the induction of a response conflict between choice alternatives, involving partial activation of the incorrect response before the correct response is emitted. Although such “conflict tasks” are often used to investigate frontal-lobe-based conflict-monitoring processes, it is not known how response competition evolves in the motor cortex. To investigate the dynamics of motor cortex activation during response competition, we used a subliminal priming task that induced response competition while bypassing preresponse stage processing conflict. Analyses of movement-related EEG potentials supported an interaction between competing responses characterized by reciprocal inhibition. Inhibitory interactions between response channels contribute to the resolution of response conflict. However, the reciprocal inhibition at motor cortex level seemed to operate independent of higher level conflict-monitoring processes, which were relatively insensitive to response conflict induced by subliminal priming. These results elucidate how response conflict causes interference as well as the conditions under which frontal-lobe-based interference control processes are engaged.