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Neuropsychol Rev. 2014 Dec;24(4):461-90. doi: 10.1007/s11065-014-9275-4. Epub 2014 Nov 19.

Event-related brain potentials in the study of inhibition: cognitive control, source localization and age-related modulations.

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CINEICC - Cognitive-Behavioural Research Center, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal,


In the previous 15 years, a variety of experimental paradigms and methods have been employed to study inhibition. In the current review, we analyze studies that have used the high temporal resolution of the event-related potential (ERP) technique to identify the temporal course of inhibition to understand the various processes that contribute to inhibition. ERP studies with a focus on normal aging are specifically analyzed because they contribute to a deeper understanding of inhibition. Three time windows are proposed to organize the ERP data collected using inhibition paradigms: the 200 ms period following stimulus onset; the period between 200 and 400 ms after stimulus onset; and the period between 400 and 800 ms after stimulus onset. In the first 200 ms, ERP inhibition research has primarily focused on N1 and P1 as the ERP components associated with inhibition. The inhibitory processing in the second time window has been associated with the N2 and P3 ERP components. Finally, in the third time window, inhibition has primarily been associated with the N400 and N450 ERP components. Source localization studies are analyzed to examine the association between the inhibition processes that are indexed by the ERP components and their functional brain areas. Inhibition can be organized in a complex functional structure that is not constrained to a specific time point but, rather, extends its activity through different time windows. This review characterizes inhibition as a set of processes rather than a unitary process.

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