A selective role for ventromedial subthalamic nucleus in inhibitory control

  1. Robert S Turner  Is a corresponding author
  2. Benjamin Pasquereau
  1. University of Pittsburgh, United States


The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is hypothesized to play a central role in the rapid stopping of movement in reaction to a stop signal. Single-unit recording evidence for such a role is sparse, however, and it remains uncertain how that role relates to the disparate functions described for anatomic subdivisions of the STN. Here we address that gap in knowledge using non-human primates and a task that distinguishes reactive and proactive action inhibition, switching and skeletomotor functions. We found that specific subsets of STN neurons have activity consistent with causal roles in reactive action stopping or switching. Importantly, these neurons were strictly segregated to a ventromedial region of STN. Neurons in other subdivisions encoded task dimensions such as movement per se and proactive control. We propose that the involvement of STN in reactive control is restricted to its ventromedial portion, further implicating this STN subdivision in impulse control disorders.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Robert S Turner

    Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-6074-4365
  2. Benjamin Pasquereau

    Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS091853)

  • Robert S Turner

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS070865)

  • Robert S Turner

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NS076405)

  • Robert S Turner

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to an approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocol (#15106967) of the University of Pittsburgh. All surgery was performed under Isoflurane anesthesia, and every effort was made to minimize pain and suffering.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Naoshige Uchida, Harvard University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: August 29, 2017
  2. Accepted: December 2, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 4, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: December 14, 2017 (version 2)


© 2017, Turner & Pasquereau

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Robert S Turner
  2. Benjamin Pasquereau
A selective role for ventromedial subthalamic nucleus in inhibitory control
eLife 6:e31627.

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