Preparing to React: A Behavioral Study on the Interplay between Proactive and Reactive Action Inhibition


  • Ficarella Stefania C
  • Desantis Andrea
  • Zenon Alexandre
  • Burle Boris


  • Proactive
  • Reactive
  • Action inhibition
  • Inhibitory control
  • Motor preparation
  • EMG
  • Motor inhibition
  • Compatibility effect
  • Partial error

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Motor preparation, based on one's goals and expectations, allows for prompt reactions to stimulations from the environment. Proactive and reactive inhibitory mechanisms modulate this preparation and interact to allow a flexible control of responses. In this study, we investigate these two control mechanisms with an ad hoc cued Go/NoGo Simon paradigm in a within-subjects design, and by measuring subliminal motor activities through electromyographic recordings. Go cues instructed participants to prepare a response and wait for target onset to execute it (Go target) or inhibit it (NoGo target). Proactive inhibition keeps the prepared response in check, hence preventing false alarms. Preparing the cue-coherent effector in advance speeded up responses, even when it turned out to be the incorrect effector and reactive inhibition was needed to perform the action with the contralateral one. These results suggest that informative cues allow for the investigation of the interaction between proactive and reactive action inhibition. Partial errors' analysis suggests that their appearance in compatible conflict-free trials depends on cue type and prior preparatory motor activity. Motor preparation plays a key role in determining whether proactive inhibition is needed to flexibly control behavior, and it should be considered when investigating proactive/reactive inhibition.

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