Preventing (impulsive) errors: Electrophysiological evidence for online inhibitory control over incorrect responses

  • Burle Borís
  • van den Wildenberg Wery P. M.
  • Spieser Laure
  • Ridderinkhof K. Richard

  • Response inhibition
  • Simon task
  • EEG
  • Current source density


In a rich environment, with multiple action affordances, selective action inhibition is critical in preventing the execution of inappropriate responses. Here, we studied the origin and the dynamics of incorrect response inhibition and how it can be modulated by task demands. We used EEG in a conflict task where the probability of compatible and incompatible trials was varied. This allowed us to modulate the strength of the prepotent response, and hence to increase the risk of errors, while keeping the probability of the two responses equal. The correct response activation and execution was not affected by compatibility or by probability. In contrast, incorrect response inhibition in the primary motor cortex ipsilateral to the correct response was more pronounced on incompatible trials, especially in the condition where most of the trials were compatible, indicating a modulation of inhibitory strength within the course of the action. Two prefrontal activities, one medial and one lateral, were also observed before the response, and their potential links with the observed inhibitory pattern observed are discussed.