Sep 4, 2014

Non-selective inhibition of the motor system following unexpected and expected infrequent events

Jennifer LachowiecÖrjan Carlborg


Motor inhibition is a key control mechanism that allows humans to rapidly adapt their actions in response to environmental events. One of the hallmark signatures of rapidly exerted, reactive motor inhibition is the non-selective suppression of cortico-spinal excitability (CSE): unexpected sensory stimuli lead to a suppression of CSE across the entire motor system, even in muscles that are inactive. Theories suggest that this reflects a fast, automatic, and broad engagement of inhibitory control, which facilitates behavioral adaptations to unexpected changes in the sensory environment. However, it is an open question whether such non-selective CSE suppression is truly due to the unexpected nature of the sensory event, or whether it is sufficient for an event to be merely infrequent (but not unexpected). Here, we report data from two experiments in which human subjects experienced both unexpected and expected infrequent events during a simple reaction time task while CSE was measured from a task-unrelated muscle. We found that expected infrequent events can indeed produce non-selective CSE suppression - but only when they occur during movement initiation. In contrast, unexpected infrequent events produce non-selective CSE suppres...Continue Reading

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