Time course of brain network reconfiguration supporting inhibitory control

Tzvetan Popov, Britta U. Westner, Rebecca L. Silton, Sarah M. Sass, Jeffrey M. Spielberg, Brigitte Rockstroh, Wendy Heller, Gregory A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hemodynamic research has recently clarified key nodes and links in brain networks implementing inhibitory control. Although fMRI methods are optimized for identifying the structure of brain networks, the relatively slow temporal course of fMRI limits the ability to characterize network operation. The latter is crucial for developing a mechanistic understanding of how brain networks shift dynamically to support inhibitory control. To address this critical gap, we applied spectrally resolved Granger causality (GC) and random forest machine learning tools to human EEG data in two large samples of adults (test sample n = 96, replication sample n = 237, total N = 333, both sexes) who performed a color–word Stroop task. Time–frequency analysis confirmed that recruitment of inhibitory control accompanied by slower behavioral responses was related to changes in theta and alpha/beta power. GC analyses revealed directionally asymmetric exchanges within frontal and between frontal and parietal brain areas: top-down influence of superior frontal gyrus (SFG) over both dorsal ACC (dACC) and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), dACC control over middle frontal gyrus (MFG), and frontal–parietal exchanges (IFG, precuneus, MFG). Predictive analytics confirmed a combination of behavioral and brain-derived variables as the best set of predictors of inhibitory control demands, with SFG theta bearing higher classification importance than dACC theta and posterior beta tracking the onset of behavioral response. The present results provide mechanistic insight into the biological implementation of a psychological phenomenon: inhibitory control is implemented by dynamic routing processes during which the target response is upregulated via theta-mediated effective connectivity within key PFC nodes and via beta-mediated motor preparation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4348-4356
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 2 2018


  • Alpha
  • EEG
  • Granger causality
  • Inhibitory control
  • Machine learning
  • Neuronal oscillations
  • Theta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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