Executive functions underlie our ability to control our behavior according to our goals. One element of executive function is top-down inhibitory control. Over the last funding periods we have distinguished two kinds of inhibitory control ? reactive and proactive. Reactive inhibitory control can have broad effects and is driven by stop signals. It is apparently implemented by prefrontal connections to the basal ganglia, which we suppose blocks thalamic drive to cortex. By contrast, proactive inhibitory control is set up in advance of any response and is apparently implemented by sensorimotor cortex, also with downstream effects on basal ganglia and thalamus. Here we leverage our knowledge of these reactive and proactive inhibitory systems to ask how we keep unwanted thoughts out of mind and what mental strategies can be used to reduce pain.
Aim 1 tests whether prefrontally-driven reactive inhibitory control prevents thought intrusions. We use the so-called Think/NoThink paradigm in which, on NoThink trials, people have to try to prevent the intrusion of an unwanted memory. We have shown this relates to increased prefrontal beta band power. We do simultaneous EEG/fMRI to localize the prefrontal node that best corresponds with the requirement to Not Think, and we then use fMRI- guided repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to create a ?virtual lesion? of that prefrontal node to test its causal role in preventing intrusions of thought.
Aim 2 moves away from reactive inhibitory control to test how proactive inhibitory control reduces subjective pain. We inculcate a proactive inhibitory state (which corresponds to increased sensorimotor beta power) and we then test if, during this state, a nociceptive pain stimulus is rated as less painful subjectively. We then do repetitive TMS to create a ?virtual lesion? of M1 (and circuitry) to test the causal role of sensorimotor beta oscillations in a ?suppressive? state pertinent to reducing pain ratings.
Aim 3 tests whether inculcating a proactive suppression state can prevent thought intrusions. We will do this by embedding the Think/NoThink requirement in task-states characterized by increased beta oscillations. These states are generated either endogenously by the subject given a cue or by the use of beta band entrainment with rTMS.

Public Health Relevance

Human brain systems for stopping action have been well-studied. This proposal leverages the extant knowledge in this area to test how people are able to stop inappropriate thoughts/memories from coming to mind, and also how they can ?dampen? their wider action system in a way that prevents motor and sensory provocations, including pain.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Grant, Steven J
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University of California, San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
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Wagner, Johanna; Wessel, Jan R; Ghahremani, Ayda et al. (2018) Establishing a Right Frontal Beta Signature for Stopping Action in Scalp EEG: Implications for Testing Inhibitory Control in Other Task Contexts. J Cogn Neurosci 30:107-118
Bartoli, Eleonora; Aron, Adam R; Tandon, Nitin (2018) Topography and timing of activity in right inferior frontal cortex and anterior insula for stopping movement. Hum Brain Mapp 39:189-203
Moore 4th, Bartlett D; Aron, Adam R; Tandon, Nitin (2018) Closed-loop intracranial stimulation alters movement timing in humans. Brain Stimul 11:886-895
Wessel, Jan R; Aron, Adam R (2017) On the Globality of Motor Suppression: Unexpected Events and Their Influence on Behavior and Cognition. Neuron 93:259-280
Aron, Adam R; Herz, Damian M; Brown, Peter et al. (2016) Frontosubthalamic Circuits for Control of Action and Cognition. J Neurosci 36:11489-11495
Wessel, Jan R; Jenkinson, Ned; Brittain, John-Stuart et al. (2016) Surprise disrupts cognition via a fronto-basal ganglia suppressive mechanism. Nat Commun 7:11195
Freeman, Scott M; Itthipuripat, Sirawaj; Aron, Adam R (2016) High Working Memory Load Increases Intracortical Inhibition in Primary Motor Cortex and Diminishes the Motor Affordance Effect. J Neurosci 36:5544-55
Freeman, Scott M; Aron, Adam R (2016) Withholding a Reward-driven Action: Studies of the Rise and Fall of Motor Activation and the Effect of Cognitive Depletion. J Cogn Neurosci 28:237-51
Wessel, Jan R; Tonnesen, Alexandra L; Aron, Adam R (2015) Stimulus devaluation induced by action stopping is greater for explicit value representations. Front Psychol 6:1640
Majid, D S Adnan; Lewis, Christina; Aron, Adam R (2015) Training voluntary motor suppression with real-time feedback of motor evoked potentials. J Neurophysiol 113:3446-52

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