Contrasting neural effects of aging on proactive and reactive response inhibition

Mirjam Bloemendaal*, Bram Zandbelt, Joost Wegman, O. van de Rest, Roshan Cools, Esther Aarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Two distinct forms of response inhibition may underlie observed deficits in response inhibition in aging. We assessed whether age-related neurocognitive impairments in response inhibition reflect deficient reactive inhibition (outright stopping) or also deficient proactive inhibition (anticipatory response slowing), which might be particularly evident with high information load. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging in young (n = 25, age range 18–32) and older adults (n = 23, 61–74) with a stop-signal task. Relative to young adults, older adults exhibited impaired reactive inhibition (i.e., longer stop-signal reaction time) and increased blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal for successful versus unsuccessful inhibition in the left frontal cortex and cerebellum. Furthermore, older adults also exhibited impaired proactive slowing, but only as a function of information load. This load-dependent behavioral deficit was accompanied by a failure to increase blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signal under high information load in lateral frontal cortex, presupplementary motor area and striatum. Our findings suggest that inhibitory deficits in older adults are caused both by reduced stopping abilities and by diminished preparation capacity during information overload.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-106
JournalNeurobiology of aging
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Functional MRI
  • Healthy aging
  • Proactive response inhibition
  • Reactive response inhibition


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