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Hell, Franz; Taylor, Paul C. J.; Mehrkens, Jan H. and Boetzel, Kai (2018): Subthalamic stimulation, oscillatory activity and connectivity reveal functional role of STN and network mechanisms during decision making under conflict. In: Neuroimage, Vol. 171: pp. 222-233

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Inhibitory control is an important executive function that is necessary to suppress premature actions and to block interference from irrelevant stimuli. Current experimental studies and models highlight proactive and reactive mechanisms and claim several cortical and subcortical structures to be involved in response inhibition. However, the involved structures, network mechanisms and the behavioral relevance of the underlying neural activity remain debated. We report cortical EEG and invasive subthalamic local field potential recordings from a fully implanted sensing neurostimulator in Parkinson's patients during a stimulus- and response conflict task with and without deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS made reaction times faster overall while leaving the effects of conflict intact: this lack of any effect on conflict may have been inherent to our task encouraging a high level of proactive inhibition. Drift diffusion modelling hints that DBS influences decision thresholds and drift rates are modulated by stimulus conflict. Both cortical EEG and subthalamic (STN) LFP oscillations reflected reaction times (RT). With these results, we provide a different interpretation of previously conflict-related oscillations in the STN and suggest that the STN implements a general task-specific decision threshold. The timecourse and topography of subthalamic-cortical oscillatory connectivity suggest the involvement of motor, frontal midline and posterior regions in a larger network with complementary functionality, oscillatory mechanisms and structures. While beta oscillations are functionally associated with motor cortical-subthalamic connectivity, low frequency oscillations reveal a subthalamic-frontal-posterior network. With our results, we suggest that proactive as well as reactive mechanisms and structures are involved in implementing a task-related dynamic inhibitory signal. We propose that motor and executive control networks with complementary oscillatory mechanisms are tonically active, react to stimuli and release inhibition at the response when uncertainty is resolved and return to their default state afterwards.

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