Inhibition-Induced Forgetting Results from Resource Competition between Response Inhibition and Memory Encoding Processes.

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UNLABELLED: Response inhibition is a key component of executive control, but its relation to other cognitive processes is not well understood. We recently documented the "inhibition-induced forgetting effect": no-go cues are remembered more poorly than go cues. We attributed this effect to central-resource competition, whereby response inhibition saps attention away from memory encoding. However, this proposal is difficult to test with behavioral means alone. We therefore used fMRI in humans to test two neural predictions of the "common resource hypothesis": (1) brain regions associated with response inhibition should exhibit greater resource demands during encoding of subsequently forgotten than remembered no-go cues; and (2) this higher inhibitory resource demand should lead to memory encoding regions having less resources available during encoding of subsequently forgotten no-go cues. Participants categorized face stimuli by gender in a go/no-go task and, following a delay, performed a surprise recognition memory test for those faces. Replicating previous findings, memory was worse for no-go than for go stimuli. Crucially, forgetting of no-go cues was predicted by high inhibitory resource demand, as quantified by the trial-by-trial ratio of activity in neural "no-go" versus "go" networks. Moreover, this index of inhibitory demand exhibited an inverse trial-by-trial relationship with activity in brain regions responsible for the encoding of no-go cues into memory, notably the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This seesaw pattern between the neural resource demand of response inhibition and activity related to memory encoding directly supports the hypothesis that response inhibition temporarily saps attentional resources away from stimulus processing. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Recent behavioral experiments showed that inhibiting a motor response to a stimulus (a "no-go cue") impairs subsequent memory for that cue. Here, we used fMRI to test whether this "inhibition-induced forgetting effect" is caused by competition for neural resources between the processes of response inhibition and memory encoding. We found that trial-by-trial variations in neural inhibitory resource demand predicted subsequent forgetting of no-go cues and that higher inhibitory demand was furthermore associated with lower concurrent activation in brain regions responsible for successful memory encoding of no-go cues. Thus, motor inhibition and stimulus encoding appear to compete with each other: when more resources have to be devoted to inhibiting action, less are available for encoding sensory stimuli.





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Chiu, Yu-Chin, and Tobias Egner (2015). Inhibition-Induced Forgetting Results from Resource Competition between Response Inhibition and Memory Encoding Processes. J Neurosci, 35(34). pp. 11936–11945. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0519-15.2015 Retrieved from

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Tobias Egner

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

My research focuses on the computational and neural mechanisms of cognitive control, the use of internal goals to guide behavior. This involves understanding how people configure and focus on a current task, and how they switch from one task to another. We study these processes using behavioral experiments as well as computational modeling, neuroimaging, and neurostimulation techniques.

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