The prefrontal cortex achieves inhibitory control by facilitating subcortical motor pathway connectivity.
Rapidly stopping action engages a network in the brain including the right presupplementary motor area (preSMA), the right inferior frontal gyrus, and the basal ganglia. Yet the functional role of these different regions within the overall network still remains unclear. Here we focused on the role of the right preSMA in behavioral stopping. We hypothesized that the underlying neurocognitive function of this region is one or more of setting up a stopping rule in advance, modulating response tendencies (e.g., slowing down in anticipation of stopping), and implementing stopping when the stop signal occurs. We performed two experiments with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided, event-related, transcranial magnetic stimulation(TMS), during the performance of variants of the stop signal task. In experiment 1 we show that stimulation of the right preSMA versus vertex (control site) slowed the implementation of stopping (measured via stop signal reaction time) but had no influence on modulation of response tendencies. In experiment 2, we showed that stimulation of the right preSMA slowed implementation of stopping in a mechanistically selective form of stopping but had no influence on setting up stopping rules. The results go beyond the replication of prior findings by showing that TMS of the right preSMA impairs stopping behavior (including a behaviorally selective form of stopping) through a specific disruption of the implementation of stopping. Future studies are required to establish whether this was due to stimulation of the right preSMA itself or because of remote effects on the wider stopping network.