Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Clinical Implication of Altered Inhibitory Response in Patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Electrophysiological Evidence from a Go/Nogo Task

  • 25 Accesses


Inhibitory dysfunction is closely associated to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The present study investigated the neurophysiological evidence for and the brain regions related to inhibitory dysfunction in PTSD. Fifty patients with PTSD and 63 healthy controls (HCs) participated in a Go/Nogo task combined with electroencephalographic recordings. The N2–P3 complexes of event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited during the Nogo condition were compared between groups. Participants underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging to examine cortical volumes and completed questionnaires. Correlations between altered ERPs and cortical volumes of regions of interest as well as psychological symptoms were analysed. Nogo-N2 latencies at five electrode sites (Fz, FCz, Cz, CPz, and Pz) were significantly delayed in patients with PTSD compared to HCs. Nogo-N2 latency had a significant negative correlation with the volume of gyrus in the inferior frontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex. Nogo-N2 latency was significantly and positively correlated with catastrophizing, anxiety, and perceived threat. These findings show inhibitory dysfunction in patients with PTSD, reflected by the delay in Nogo-N2 latencies. They also indicate that Nogo-N2 latencies are associated with smaller cortical volumes responsible for inhibition as well as with major symptoms of PTSD.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th edn. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC

  2. Aron AR, Robbins TW, Poldrack RA (2014) Inhibition and the right inferior frontal cortex: one decade on. Trends Cogn Sci 18:177–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2013.12.003

  3. Ashburner J (2007) A fast diffeomorphic image registration algorithm. Neuroimage 38:95–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.07.007

  4. Ashburner J (2009) Computational anatomy with the SPM software. Magn Reson Imaging 27:1163–1174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mri.2009.01.006

  5. Ashburner J, Friston KJ (2000) Voxel-based morphometry: the methods. Neuroimage 11:805–821. https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2000.0582

  6. Ashburner J, Friston KJ (2005) Unified segmentation. Neuroimage 26:839–851. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.02.018

  7. Aupperle RL, Melrose AJ, Stein MB, Paulus MP (2012) Executive function and PTSD: disengaging from trauma. Neuropharmacology 62:686–694. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.008

  8. Bjelland I, Dahl AA, Haug TT, Neckelmann D (2002) The validity of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale: an updated literature review. J Psychosom Res 52:69–77

  9. Blanchard EB, Hickling EJ, Mitnick N, Taylor AE, Loos WR, Buckley TC (1995) The impact of severity of physical injury and perception of life threat in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder in motor vehicle accident victims. Behav Res Ther 33:529–534. https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7967(94)00079-y

  10. Bokura H, Yamaguchi S, Kobayashi S (2001) Electrophysiological correlates for response inhibition in a Go/NoGo task. Clin Neurophysiol 112:2224–2232. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1388-2457(01)00691-5

  11. Bremner JD (2006) Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 8:445–461

  12. Bruin K, Wijers A (2002) Inhibition, response mode, and stimulus probability: a comparative event-related potential study. Clin Neurophysiol 113:1172–1182

  13. Casada JH, Roache JD (2005) Behavioral inhibition and activation in posttraumatic stress disorder. J Nerv Ment Dis 193:102–109

  14. Catarino A, Küpper CS, Werner-Seidler A, Dalgleish T, Anderson MC (2015) Failing to forget: inhibitory-control deficits compromise memory suppression in posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychol Sci 26:604–616. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615569889

  15. Cools R, Clark L, Owen AM, Robbins TW (2002) Defining the neural mechanisms of probabilistic reversal learning using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. J Neurosci 22:4563–4567. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.22-11-04563.2002

  16. Depue B, Olson-Madden J, Smolker H, Rajamani M, Brenner L, Banich M (2014) Reduced amygdala volume is associated with deficits in inhibitory control: a voxel-and surface-based morphometric analysis of comorbid PTSD/mild TBI. BioMed Res Int.https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/691505

  17. Donchin E, Coles MG (1988) Is the P300 component a manifestation of context updating? Behav Brain Sci 11:357–374. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0140525x00058027

  18. Dong G, Lu Q, Zhou H, Zhao X (2010) Impulse inhibition in people with Internet addiction disorder: electrophysiological evidence from a Go/NoGo study. Neurosci Lett 485:138–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2010.09.002

  19. Donkers FC, Van Boxtel GJ (2004) The N2 in go/no-go tasks reflects conflict monitoring not response inhibition. Brain Cognit 56:165–176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2004.04.005

  20. Eimer M (1993) Effects of attention and stimulus probability on ERPs in a Go/Nogo task. Biol Psychol 35:123–138

  21. Falconer E et al (2008) The neural networks of inhibitory control in posttraumatic stress disorder. J Psychiatry Neurosci 33:413

  22. Gajewski PD, Falkenstein M (2013) Effects of task complexity on ERP components in Go/Nogo tasks. Int J Psychophysiol 87:273–278. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2012.08.007

  23. Garnefski N, Kraaij V (2006) Cognitive emotion regulation questionnaire–development of a short 18-item version (CERQ-short). Pers Indiv Differ 41:1045–1053. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2006.04.010

  24. Garnefski N, Kraaij V, Spinhoven P (2001) Negative life events, cognitive emotion regulation and emotional problems. Pers Individ Differ 30:1311–1327. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0191-8869(00)00113-6

  25. Haukoos JS, Lewis RJ (2005) Advanced statistics: bootstrapping confidence intervals for statistics with “difficult” distributions. Acad Emerg Med 12:360–365. https://doi.org/10.1197/j.aem.2004.11.018

  26. Holbrook TL, Hoyt DB, Stein MB, Sieber WJ (2001) Perceived threat to life predicts posttraumatic stress disorder after major trauma: risk factors and functional outcome. J Trauma 51:287–292. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005373-200108000-00010 discussion 292 – 283.

  27. Horn N, Dolan M, Elliott R, Deakin J, Woodruff P (2003) Response inhibition and impulsivity: an fMRI study. Neuropsychologia 41:1959–1966. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0028-3932(03)00077-0

  28. Huster RJ, Enriquez-Geppert S, Lavallee CF, Falkenstein M, Herrmann CS (2013) Electroencephalography of response inhibition tasks: functional networks and cognitive contributions. Int J Psychophysiol 87:217–233

  29. Jodo E, Kayama Y (1992) Relation of a negative ERP component to response inhibition in a Go/No-go task. Clin Neurophysiol 82:477–482. https://doi.org/10.1016/0013-4694(92)90122-x

  30. Jovanovic T, Norrholm SD, Blanding NQ, Davis M, Duncan E, Bradley B, Ressler KJ (2010) Impaired fear inhibition is a biomarker of PTSD but not depression. Depress Anxiety 27:244–251

  31. Jovanovic T et al (2009) Posttraumatic stress disorder may be associated with impaired fear inhibition: relation to symptom severity. Psychiatry Res 167:151–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2007.12.014

  32. Kaiser S, Weiss O, Hill H, Markela-Lerenc J, Kiefer M, Weisbrod M (2006) N2 event-related potential correlates of response inhibition in an auditory Go/Nogo task. Int J Psychophysiol 61:279–282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2005.09.006

  33. Kamarajan C et al (2005) Alcoholism is a disinhibitory disorder: neurophysiological evidence from a Go/No-Go task. Biol Psychol 69:353–373. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.08.004

  34. Karl A, Schaefer M, Malta LS, Dörfel D, Rohleder N, Werner A (2006) A meta-analysis of structural brain abnormalities in PTSD. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 30:1004–1031. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2006.03.004

  35. Kim M et al (2017) Neurophysiological correlates of altered response inhibition in internet gaming disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder: perspectives from impulsivity and compulsivity. Sci Rep 7:41742. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep41742

  36. Kopp B, Mattler U, Goertz R, Rist F (1996) N2, P3 and the lateralized readiness potential in a nogo task involving selective response priming. Electroencephalogr Clinl Neurophysiol 99:19–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/0921-884x(96)95617-9

  37. Liberzon I, Sripada CS (2007) The functional neuroanatomy of PTSD: a critical review. Prog Brain Res 167:151–169. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0079-6123(07)67011-3

  38. Liotti M, Woldorff MG, Perez R III, Mayberg HS (2000) An ERP study of the temporal course of the Stroop color-word interference effect. Neuropsychologia 38:701–711. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0028-3932(99)00106-2

  39. Luck SJ (2014) An introduction to the event-related potential technique. MIT Press, Cambridge

  40. Oh SM, Min KJ, Park DB (1999) A study on the standardization of the hospital anxiety and depression scale for Koreans: a comparison of normal, depressed and anxious groups. J Korean Neuropsych Asso 38:289–296

  41. Polich J, Criado JR (2006) Neuropsychology and neuropharmacology of P3a and P3b. Int J Psychophysiol 60:172–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2005.12.012

  42. Polich J, Ladish C, Burns T (1990) Normal variation of P300 in children: age, memory span, and head size. Int J Psychophysiol 9:237–248. https://doi.org/10.1016/0167-8760(90)90056-j

  43. Roberts A, Wallis J (2000) Inhibitory control and affective processing in the prefrontal cortex: neuropsychological studies in the common marmoset. Cereb Cortex 10:252–262. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/10.3.252

  44. Rudebeck PH, Saunders RC, Prescott AT, Chau LS, Murray EA (2013) Prefrontal mechanisms of behavioral flexibility, emotion regulation and value updating. Nat Neurosci 16:1140. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3440

  45. Sehlmeyer C, Konrad C, Zwitserlood P, Arolt V, Falkenstein M, Beste C (2010) ERP indices for response inhibition are related to anxiety-related personality traits. Neuropsychologia 48:2488–2495. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.04.022

  46. Semlitsch HV, Anderer P, Schuster P, Presslich O (1986) A solution for reliable and valid reduction of ocular artifacts, applied to the P300 ERP. Psychophysiology 23:695–703. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.1986.tb00696.x

  47. Sharot T, Kanai R, Marston D, Korn CW, Rees G, Dolan RJ (2012) Selectively altering belief formation in the human brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci 109:17058–17062. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1205828109

  48. Shin LM, Rauch SL, Pitman RK (2006) Amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, and hippocampal function in PTSD. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1071:67–79. https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1364.007

  49. Shucard JL, McCabe DC, Szymanski H (2008) An event-related potential study of attention deficits in posttraumatic stress disorder during auditory and visual Go/NoGo continuous performance tasks. Biol Psychol 79:223–233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2008.05.005

  50. Smith JL, Johnstone SJ, Barry RJ (2008) Movement-related potentials in the Go/NoGo task: the P3 reflects both cognitive and motor inhibition. Clin Neurophysiol 119:704–714. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinph.2007.11.042

  51. Swick D, Ashley V, Turken U (2008) Left inferior frontal gyrus is critical for response inhibition. BMC Neurosci 9:102. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2202-9-102

  52. Swick D, Honzel N, Larsen J, Ashley V, Justus T (2012) Impaired response inhibition in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 18:917–926

  53. Vasterling JJ, Brailey K, Constans JI, Sutker PB (1998) Attention and memory dysfunction in posttraumatic stress disorder. Neuropsychology 12:125

  54. Weathers FW, Litz BT, Keane TM, Palmieri PA, Marx BP, Schnurr PP (2013) The ptsd checklist for dsm-5 (pcl-5). National Center for PTSD, Boston

  55. Westfall PH (2011) On using the bootstrap for multiple comparisons. J Biopharm Stat 21:1187–1205

  56. Wu J, Ge Y, Shi Z, Duan X, Wang L, Sun X, Zhang K (2010) Response inhibition in adolescent earthquake survivors with and without posttraumatic stress disorder: a combined behavioral and ERP study. Neurosci Lett 486:117–121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2010.07.040

Download references


We wish to acknowledge Hyun Seo Lee for language editing of the manuscript. The present study was supported by a grant from the Brain Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning (NRF-2015M3C7A1028252), and by a grant from the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF), funded by the Korean government (NRF-2018R1A2A2A05018505).

Author information

Correspondence to Seung-Hwan Lee.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of interests

The authors declare no conflicts of interests.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Handling Editor: Micah M. Murray.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 387 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Min, D., Kwon, A., Kim, Y. et al. Clinical Implication of Altered Inhibitory Response in Patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Electrophysiological Evidence from a Go/Nogo Task. Brain Topogr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10548-020-00754-9

Download citation


  • PTSD
  • Go/Nogo
  • N2 latency
  • Cortical volume