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Control of response interference: caudate nucleus contributes to selective inhibition

While the role of cortical regions in cognitive control processes is well accepted, the contribution of subcortical structures (e.g., the striatum), especially to the control of response interference, remains controversial. Therefore, the present study aimed to investigate the cortical and particularly subcortical neural mechanisms of response interference control (including selective inhibition).
Thirteen healthy young participants underwent event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a unimanual version of the Simon task. In this task, successful performance required the resolution of stimulus-response conflicts in incongruent trials by selectively inhibiting interfering response tendencies.
The behavioral results show an asymmetrical Simon effect that was more pronounced in the contralateral hemifield. Contrasting incongruent trials with congruent trials (i.e., the overall Simon effect) significantly activated clusters in the right anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the right posterior insula, and the caudate nucleus bilaterally. Furthermore, a region of interest analysis based on previous patient studies revealed that activation in the bilateral caudate nucleus significantly co-varied with a parameter of selective inhibition derived from distributional analyses of response times.
Our results corroborate the notion that the cognitive control of response interference is supported by a fronto-striatal circuitry, with a functional contribution of the caudate nucleus to the selective inhibition of interfering response tendencies.

Schmidt 2020

Figure. Magnitude of the Simon effect (i.e., the difference in RTs between incongruent and congruent conditions) as a function of response latency (collapsed across responding hands) and brain activation patterns for the corresponding fMRI regression analysis with the RT distribution parameter of selective inhibition (i.e., the course of the Simon effect across the RT distribution as indexed by the slope) as a covariate for the healthy young subjects.
(A) Behavioral results of the response time (RT) distributional analysis. (B) Mean activation map of the fMRI regression analysis. (C) & (D) Scatterplots depicting the correlation between the individual Simon effect slopes across the entire RT distribution (y-axis) and the beta estimates for the contrast incongruent > congruent extracted from the peak voxels of the clusters in the left caudate nucleus (C; x-axis) and right caudate nucleus (D; x-axis).



Schmidt, C. C., Timpert, D. C., Arend, I., Vossel, S., Fink, G. R., Henik, A., & Weiss, P. H. (2020). Control of response interference: caudate nucleuscontributes to selective inhibition. Scientific Reports.

Correspondence to:

Dr. Claudia Schmidt