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Open Access Research article

Activation of the pre-supplementary motor area but not inferior prefrontal cortex in association with short stop signal reaction time – an intra-subject analysis

Herta HA Chao12, Xi Luo34, Jeremy LK Chang3 and Chiang-shan R Li35*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, VA Connecticut Health Care System, West Haven, CT 06516, USA

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA

3 Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA

4 Department of Statistics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06519, USA

5 Department of Neurobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:75  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-75

Published: 14 July 2009



Our previous work described the neural processes of motor response inhibition during a stop signal task (SST). Employing the race model, we computed the stop signal reaction time (SSRT) to index individuals' ability in inhibitory control. The pre-supplementary motor area (preSMA), which shows greater activity in individuals with short as compared to those with long SSRT, plays a role in mediating response inhibition. In contrast, the right inferior prefrontal cortex (rIFC) showed greater activity during stop success as compared to stop error. Here we further pursued this functional differentiation of preSMA and rIFC on the basis of an intra-subject approach.


Of 65 subjects who participated in four sessions of the SST, we identified 30 individuals who showed a difference in SSRT but were identical in other aspects of stop signal performance between the first ("early") and last two ("late") sessions. By comparing regional brain activation between the two sessions, we confirmed greater preSMA but not rIFC activity during short as compared to long SSRT session within individuals. Furthermore, putamen, anterior cerebellum and middle/posterior cingulate cortex also showed greater activity in association with short SSRT.


These results are consistent with a role of medial prefrontal cortex in controlled action and inferior frontal cortex in orienting attention. We discussed these findings with respect to the process of attentional monitoring and inhibitory motor control during stop signal inhibition.