Behavioral and brain responses to stimuli not only depend on their physical features but also on the individuals' neurocognitive states before stimuli onsets. While the influence of pre-stimulus fluctuations in brain activity on low-level perceptive processes is well established, the state dependency of high-order executive processes remains unclear. Using a classical inhibitory control Go/NoGo task, we examined whether and how fluctuations in the brain activity during the period preceding the stimuli triggering inhibition influenced inhibitory control performance. Seventeen participants completed the Go/NoGo task while 64-channel electroencephalogram was recorded. We compared the event-related potentials preceding the onset of the NoGo stimuli associated with inhibition failures false alarms (FA) vs. successful inhibition correct rejections (CR) with data-driven statistical analyses of global measures of the topography and strength of the scalp electric field. Distributed electrical source estimations were used to localize the origin of the event-related potentials modulations. We observed differences in the global field power of the event-related potentials (FA > CR) without concomitant topographic modulations over the 40 ms period immediately preceding NoGo stimuli. This result indicates that the same brain networks were engaged in the two conditions, but more strongly before FA than CR. Source estimations revealed that this effect followed from a higher activity before FA than CR within bilateral inferior frontal gyri and the right inferior parietal lobule. These findings suggest that uncontrolled quantitative variations in pre-stimulus activity within attentional and control brain networks influence inhibition performance. The present data thereby demonstrate the state dependency of cognitive processes of up to high-order executive levels.
During an inhibitory control task, pre-stimulus brain states differed before NoGo stimuli depending on whether the response to these stimuli was correctly inhibited or not. Right frontoparietal activity was higher before false alarms 40 ms before the NoGo stimuli. Uncontrolled quantitative variations in pre-stimulus activity within attentional and control brain networks influence inhibition performance, suggesting a state dependency of cognitive processes up to high-order executive levels.