Response inhibition is essential for navigating everyday life. Its derailment is considered integral to numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders, and more generally, to a wide range of behavioral and health problems. Response-inhibition efficiency furthermore correlates with treatment outcome in some of these conditions. The stop-signal task is an essential tool to determine how quickly response inhibition is implemented. Despite its apparent simplicity, there are many features (ranging from task design to data analysis) that vary across studies in ways that can easily compromise the validity of the obtained results.
Detailed description of the task
In this task, participants typically perform a go task (e.g. press left when an arrow pointing to the left appears, and right when an arrow pointing to the right appears), but on a minority of the trials, a stop signal (e.g. a cross replacing the arrow) appears after a variable stop-signal delay (SSD), instructing participants to suppress the imminent go response (Figure 1).
Figure 1 (Adopted from eLife 2019;8:e46323 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.46323 )
Response inhibition and impulse control are central topics in various fields of research, including neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, neurology, pharmacology, and behavioral sciences, and the stop-signal task has become an essential tool in their study. If properly used, the task can reveal unique information about the underlying neuro-cognitive control mechanisms. By providing clear recommendations, and open-source resources, this paper aims to further increase the quality of research in the response-inhibition and impulse-control domain and to significantly accelerate its progress across the various important domains in which it is routinely applied.