ERP components associated with successful and unsuccessful stopping in a stop-signal task


Address reprint requests to: Albert Kok, Psychology Department, Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:


The primary aim of this study was to examine how response inhibition is reflected in components of the event-related potential (ERP), using the stop-signal paradigm as a tool to manipulate response inhibition processes. Stop signals elicited a sequence of N2/P3 components that partly overlapped with ERP components elicited by the reaction stimulus. N2/P3 components were more pronounced on stop-signal trials than on no-stop-signal trials. At Cz, the stop-signal P3 peaked earlier on successful than on unsuccessful stop trials. This finding extends the horse race model by demonstrating that the internal response to the stop signal (as reflected in stop-signal P3) is not constant, but terminates at different moments in time on successful and unsuccessful stop trials. In addition, topographical distributions and dipole analysis of high density EEG recordings indicated that different cortical generators were involved in P3s elicited on successful and unsuccessful stop-signal trials. The latter results suggest that P3 on successful stop-signal trials not only reflects stop-signal processing per se, but also efficiency of inhibitory control.