The processing of executive control is thought to involve cortical as well as thalamic brain areas. However, the questions of how thalamic structures contribute to the control of behavior and how cortical versus thalamic processing is coordinated remain to be settled. We therefore aimed at specifying respective activations during the performance of a go/no-go task. To this end, an electroencephalogram was recorded simultaneously from scalp and thalamic electrodes in seven patients undergoing deep brain stimulation. Meanwhile, left- or right-directed precues were presented indicating with which index finger a button press should be putatively executed. Thereafter, 2 sec elapsed until a go or no-go stimulus determined if the prepared movement had to be performed or withheld. In fronto-central scalp as well as in thalamic recordings, event-related potentials upon go versus no-go instructions were expressed differentially. This task effect was unrelated to motor processes and emerged significantly prior at thalamic than at scalp level. Amplitude fluctuations of depth and scalp responses showed site- and task-dependent correlations, particularly between thalamic and no-go-related activities at frontal recording sites. We conclude that an early classification of go and no-go instructions is performed already thalamically. It further appears that this information is subsequently utilized by cortical areas engaged in the definite inhibition of the prepared action.

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