How do we prepare to stop ourselves in the future? Here, we used scalp EEG to test the hypothesis that people prepare to stop by putting parts of their motor system (specifically, here, sensorimotor cortex) into a suppressed state ahead of time. On each trial, participants were cued to prepare to stop one hand and then initiated a bimanual movement. On a minority of trials, participants were instructed to stop the cued hand while continuing quickly with the other. We used a guided multivariate source separation method to examine oscillatory power changes in presumed sensorimotor cortical areas. We observed that, when people prepare to stop a hand, there were above-baseline beta band power increases (12–24 Hz) in contralateral cortex up to a second earlier. This increase in beta band power in the proactive period was functionally relevant because it predicted, trial by trial, the degree of selectivity with which participants subsequently stopped a response but did not relate to movement per se. Thus, preparing to stop particular response channels corresponds to increased beta power from contralateral (sensorimotor) cortex, and this relates specifically to subsequent stopping. These results provide a high temporal resolution and frequency-specific electrophysiological signature of the preparing-to-stop state that is pertinent to future studies of mitigating provocation, including in clinical disorders. The results also highlight the utility of guided multivariate source separation for revealing the cortical dynamics underlying both movement and response suppression.

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