Spatiotemporal brain mapping during preparation, perception, and action

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Deciding whether to act or not to act is a fundamental cognitive function. To avoid incorrect responses, both reactive and proactive modes of control have been postulated. Little is known, however, regarding the brain implementation of proactive mechanisms, which are deployed prior to an actual need to inhibit a response. Via a combination of electrophysiological and neuroimaging measures (recorded in 21 and 16 participants, respectively), we describe the brain localization and timing of neural activity that underlies the anticipatory proactive mechanism. From these results, we conclude that proactive control originates in the inferior Frontal gyrus, is established well before stimulus perception, and is released concomitantly with stimulus appearance. Stimulus perception triggers early activity in the anterior insula and intraparietal cortex contralateral to the responding hand; these areas likely mediate the transition from perception to action. The neural activities leading to the decision to act or not to act are described in the framework of a three-stage model that includes perception, action, and anticipatory functions taking place well before stimulus onset.

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