In a stop-signal task participants are instructed to initiate a movement in response to a go signal, but to inhibit this movement if an infrequent stop signal is presented after the go. Reaction time (RT) in a stop-signal task is typically longer compared with that in a simple RT task, which may be attributed to a reduced readiness to initiate the response caused by the possibility of having to inhibit the response. The purpose of this experiment was to probe the preparatory activation level of the motor response during a stop-signal task using a startling acoustic stimulus (SAS), which has been shown to involuntarily trigger sufficiently prepared responses at a short latency. Participants completed two separate tasks: a simple RT task, followed by a stop-signal RT task. During both tasks, an SAS (120 dB) was pseudorandomly presented concurrently with the go signal. As expected, RT during the simple RT task was significantly shorter than during the stop-signal task. A significant reduction in RT was noted when an SAS was presented during the simple RT task; however, during the stop-signal task, an SAS resulted in either a significant speeding or a moderate delay in RT. Additionally, the subset of SAS trial responses with the shortest RT latencies produced during the stop-signal task were also delayed compared with the short-latency SAS trial responses observed during the simple RT task. Despite evidence that a response was prepared in advance of the go signal during a stop-signal task, it appears that the amount of preparatory activation was reduced compared with that achieved during a simple RT task.
- stop-signal task
- startling acoustic stimulus
- reaction time
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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