It has been suggested that inhibitory executive control of behavior is directed by the frontal lobes. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to explore the brain regions that are involved in the inhibition of habitual manual responses. Fifteen right-handed subjects performed the rock–scissors– paper game against computer-simulated pictures of hands during the scanning procedure. The subjects were required to win, lose, or draw against the presented picture in a separate block. We considered that the situation in which subjects intentionally lost the game required the suppression of habitual behavior, because it is natural behavior for people to attempt to win the game. Compared with the WIN and DRAW conditions, the left premotor and sensorimotor areas were activated for both hand sessions with a positive correlation with error rates. Importantly, the LOSE condition in the case of the right hand yielded brain activation exclusively in the anterior part of the left inferior frontal gyrus, the activity which showed a negative correlation with error rates. Overall brain activations were predominant in the left hemisphere, irrespective of the hand used for the response. The results suggest that the anterior part of the left inferior frontal gyrus plays a critical role in the inhibition of habitual manual behavior, and that the left hemisphere is dominant for the selection of well-learned manual behavior.

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