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Abstract

An essential facet of adaptive and versatile behavior is the ability to prioritize actions in response to dynamically changing circumstances. The field of potential actions afforded by a situation is shaped by many factors, such as environmental demands, past experiences, and prepotent tendencies. Selection among action affordances can be driven by deliberate, intentional processes as a product of goal-directed behavior and by extraneous stimulus–action associations as established inherently or through learning. We first review the neurocognitive mechanisms putatively linked to these intention-driven and association-driven routes of action selection. Next, we review the neurocognitive mechanisms engaged to inhibit action affordances that are no longer relevant or that interfere with goal-directed action selection. Optimal action control is viewed as a dynamic interplay between selection and suppression mechanisms, which is achieved by an elaborate circuitry of interconnected cortical regions (most prominently the pre-supplementary motor area and the right inferior frontal cortex) and basal ganglia structures (most prominently the dorsal striatum and the subthalamic nucleus). WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 174–192 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.99

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