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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

May 2021, Vol. 33, No. 5, Pages 784-798
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01682)
© 2021 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Adjustments to Proactive Motor Inhibition without Effector-Specific Foreknowledge Are Reflected in a Bilateral Upregulation of Sensorimotor β-Burst Rates
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Classic work using the stop-signal task has shown that humans can use inhibitory control to cancel already initiated movements. Subsequent work revealed that inhibitory control can be proactively recruited in anticipation of a potential stop-signal, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful movement cancellation. However, the exact neurophysiological effects of proactive inhibitory control on the motor system are still unclear. On the basis of classic views of sensorimotor β-band activity, as well as recent findings demonstrating the burst-like nature of this signal, we recently proposed that proactive inhibitory control is implemented by influencing the rate of sensorimotor β-bursts during movement initiation. Here, we directly tested this hypothesis using scalp EEG recordings of β-band activity in 41 healthy human adults during a bimanual RT task. By comparing motor responses made in two different contexts—during blocks with or without stop-signals—we found that premovement β-burst rates over both contralateral and ipsilateral sensorimotor areas were increased in stop-signal blocks compared to pure-go blocks. Moreover, the degree of this burst rate difference indexed the behavioral implementation of proactive inhibition (i.e., the degree of anticipatory response slowing in the stop-signal blocks). Finally, exploratory analyses showed that these condition differences were explained by a significant increase in β bursting that was already present during baseline period before the movement initiation signal. Together, this suggests that the strategic deployment of proactive inhibitory motor control is implemented by upregulating the tonic inhibition of the motor system, signified by increased sensorimotor β-bursting both before and after signals to initiate a movement.