Proactive and reactive inhibitory control in rats

Jeffrey D. Mayse, Geoffrey M. Nelson, Pul Park, Michela Gallagher, Shih Chieh Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Inhibiting actions inappropriate for the behavioral context, or inhibitory control, is essential for survival and involves both reactively stopping the current prepared action and proactively adjusting behavioral tendencies to increase future performance. A powerful paradigm widely used in basic and clinical research to study inhibitory control is the stop signal task (SST). Recent years have seen a surging interest in translating the SST to rodents to study the neural mechanisms underlying inhibitory control. However, significant differences in task designs and behavioral strategies between rodent and primate studies have made it difficult to directly compare the two literatures. In this study, we developed a rodent-appropriate SST and characterized both reactive and proactive control in rats. For reactive inhibitory control, we found that, unlike in primates, incorrect stop trials in rodents result from two independent types of errors: an initial failure-to-stop error or, after successful stopping, a subsequent failure-to-wait error. Conflating failure-to-stop and failure-to-wait errors systematically overestimates the covert latency of reactive inhibition, the stop signal reaction time (SSRT). To correctly estimate SSRT, we developed and validated a new method that provides an unbiased SSRT estimate independent of the ability to wait. For proactive inhibitory control, we found that rodents adjust both their reaction time and the ability to stop following failure-to-wait errors and successful stop trials, but not after failure-to-stop errors. Together, these results establish a valid rodent model that utilizes proactive and reactive inhibitory control strategies similar to primates, and highlight the importance of dissociating initial stopping from subsequent waiting in studying mechanisms of inhibitory control using rodents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue number8 MAY
StatePublished - 2014


  • Decision making
  • Executive function
  • Impulsivity
  • Inhibitory control
  • Proactive
  • Reactive
  • Stop signal
  • Stop signal reaction time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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