Published on Mon Jul 05 2021

Transient beta modulates decision thresholds during human action-stopping

Muralidharan, V., Aron, A. R., Schmidt, R.

Action-stopping in humans involves bursts of beta oscillations in prefrontal-basal ganglia regions. To determine the functional role of these beta bursts we took advantage of the Race Model framework. We found that the model variant in which beta increased decision thresholds best explained the empirical data.

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Abstract

Action-stopping in humans involves bursts of beta oscillations in prefrontal-basal ganglia regions. To determine the functional role of these beta bursts we took advantage of the Race Model framework describing action-stopping. We incorporated beta bursts in three race model variants, each implementing a different functional contribution of beta to action-stopping. In these variants, we hypothesized that a transient increase in beta could 1) modulate decision thresholds, 2) change stop accumulation rates, or 3) promote the interaction between the Stop and the Go process. We then tested the model predictions using EEG recordings in humans performing a Stop-signal task. We found that the model variant in which beta increased decision thresholds for a brief period of time best explained the empirical data. The model parameters fitted to the empirical data indicated that beta bursts involve a stronger decision threshold modulation for the Go process than for the Stop process. This suggests that prefrontal beta influences stopping by temporarily holding the response from execution. Our study further suggests that human action-stopping could be multi-staged with the beta acting as a pause, increasing the response threshold for the Stop process to modulate behavior successfully. Our novel approach of introducing transient oscillations into the race model and testing against human neurophysiological data allowed us to discover potential mechanisms of prefrontal beta, possibly generalizing its role in situations requiring executive control over actions.