Don't Stop Me Now: Neural Underpinnings of Increased Impulsivity to Temporally Predictable Events


  • Korolczuk Inga
  • Burle Boris
  • Coull Jennifer
  • Ogińska Halszka
  • Ociepka Michał
  • Senderecka Magdalena
  • Śmigasiewicz Kamila

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Abstract Although the benefit of temporal predictability for behavior is long-established, recent studies provide evidence that knowing when an important event will occur comes at the cost of greater impulsivity. Here, we investigated the neural basis of inhibiting actions to temporally predictable targets using an EEG–EMG method. In our temporally cued version of the stop-signal paradigm (two-choice task), participants used temporal information delivered by a symbolic cue to speed their responses to the target. In a quarter of the trials, an auditory signal indicated that participants had to inhibit their actions. Behavioral results showed that although temporal cues speeded RTs, they also impaired the ability to stop actions as indexed by longer stop-signal reaction time. In line with behavioral benefits of temporal predictability, EEG data demonstrated that acting at temporally predictable moments facilitated response selection at the cortical level (reduced frontocentral negativity just before the response). Likewise, activity of the motor cortex involved in suppression of incorrect response hand was stronger for temporally predictable events. Thus, by keeping an incorrect response in check, temporal predictability likely enabled faster implementation of the correct response. Importantly, there was no effect of temporal cues on the EMG-derived index of online, within-trial inhibition of subthreshold impulses. This result shows that although participants were more prone to execute a fast response to temporally predictable targets, their inhibitory control was, in fact, unaffected by temporal cues. Altogether, our results demonstrate that greater impulsivity when responding to temporally predictable events is paralleled by enhanced neural motor processes involved in response selection and implementation rather than impaired inhibitory control.

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