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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2012 Dec;38(6):1348-52. doi: 10.1037/a0030514. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

Contingent involuntary motoric inhibition: the involuntary inhibition of a motor response contingent on top-down goals.

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Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218-2686, USA.


Effective motor control involves both the execution of appropriate responses and the inhibition of inappropriate responses that are evoked by response-associated stimuli. The inhibition of a motor response has traditionally been characterized as either a voluntary act of cognitive control or a low-level perceptual bias arising from processes such as inhibition of return and priming. Involuntary effects of top-down goals on motoric inhibition have been reported, but involve the perseveration of an inhibitory strategy. It is unknown whether the inhibition of a motor response can be selectively triggered by a goal-relevant stimulus, reflecting the automatic activation of a top-down inhibitory strategy. Here we show that irrelevant flankers that share the color of a no-go target elicit the inhibition of their associated motor response while other-colored flankers do not, even when participants have sufficient time to prepare for the upcoming target while ignoring the flankers. Our results demonstrate contingent involuntary motoric inhibition: motoric inhibition can be automatically triggered by a stimulus based on top-down goals.

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