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J Neurosci. 2016 Dec 14;36(50):12688-12696.

The Right Superior Frontal Gyrus and Individual Variation in Proactive Control of Impulsive Response.

Hu S1,2, Ide JS3, Zhang S3, Li CR1,4,5.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06519,
Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, New York 13126, and.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06519.
Department of Neuroscience and.
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520.


A hallmark of cognitive control is the ability to rein in impulsive responses. Previously, we used a Bayesian model to describe trial-by-trial likelihood of the stop signal or p(Stop) and related regional activations to p(Stop) to response slowing in a stop signal task. Here, we characterized the regional processes of conflict anticipation in association with intersubject variation in impulse control in 114 young adults. We computed the stop signal reaction time (SSRT) and a measure of motor urgency, indexed by the reaction time (RT) difference between go and stop error trials or "GoRT - SERT," where GoRT is the go trial RT and SERT is the stop error RT. Motor urgency and SSRT were positively correlated across subjects. A linear regression identified regional activations to p(Stop), each in correlation with SSRT and motor urgency. We hypothesized that shared neural activities mediate the correlation between motor urgency and SSRT in proactive control of impulsivity. Activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex and right superior frontal gyrus (SFG) during conflict anticipation correlated negatively with the SSRT. Activation of the right SFG also correlated negatively with GoRT - SERT. Therefore, activation of the right SFG was associated with more efficient response inhibition and less motor urgency. A mediation analysis showed that right SFG activation to conflict anticipation mediates the correlation between SSRT and motor urgency bidirectionally. The current results highlight a specific role of the right SFG in translating conflict anticipation to the control of impulsive response, which is consistent with earlier studies suggesting its function in action restraint.


Individuals vary in impulse control. However, the neural bases underlying individual variation in proactive control of impulsive responses remain unknown. Here, in a large sample of young adults, we showed that activation of the right superior frontal gyrus (SFG) during conflict anticipation is positively correlated with the capacity of inhibitory control and negatively with motor urgency in the stop signal task. Importantly, activity of the right SFG mediates the counteracting processes of inhibitory control and motor urgency across subjects. The results support a unique role of the right SFG in individual variation in cognitive control.


cognitive control; motor inhibition; neuroimaging; no-go; post-error slowing

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