Cultural influences on neural basis of inhibitory control

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Research on neural basis of inhibitory control has been extensively conducted in various parts of the world. It is often implicitly assumed that neural basis of inhibitory control is universally similar across cultures. Here, we investigated the extent to which culture modulated inhibitory-control brain activity at both cultural-group and cultural-value levels of analysis. During fMRI scanning, participants from different cultural groups (including Caucasian-Americans and Japanese-Americans living in the United States and native Japanese living in Japan) performed a Go/No-Go task. They also completed behavioral surveys assessing cultural values of behavioral consistency, or the extent to which one's behaviors in daily life are consistent across situations. Across participants, the Go/No-Go task elicited stronger neural activity in several inhibitory-control areas, such as the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Importantly, at the cultural-group level, we found variation in left IFG (L-IFG) activity that was explained by a cultural region where participants lived in (as opposed to race). Specifically, L-IFG activity was stronger for native Japanese compared to Caucasian- and Japanese-Americans, while there was no systematic difference in L-IFG activity between Japanese- and Caucasian-Americans. At the cultural-value level, we found that participants who valued being “themselves” across situations (i.e., having high endorsement of behavioral consistency) elicited stronger rostral ACC activity during the Go/No-Go task. Altogether, our findings provide novel insight into how culture modulates the neural basis of inhibitory control.

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