Intra-individual performance variability may be an important index of the efficiency with which executive control processes are implemented, Lesion studies suggest that damage to the frontal lobes is accompanied by an increase in such variability. Here we sought for the first time to investigate how the functional neuroanatomy of executive control is modulated by performance variability in healthy subjects by using an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (ER-fMRI) design and a Go/No-go response inhibition paradigm. Behavioural results revealed that individual differences in Go response time variability were a strong predictor of inhibitory success and that differences in mean Go response time could not account for this effect. Task-related brain activation was positively correlated with intra-individual variability within a distributed inhibitory network consisting of bilateral middle frontal areas and right inferior parietal and thalamic regions. Both the behavioural and fMRI data are consistent with the interpretation that those subjects with relatively higher intra-individual variability activate inhibitory regions to a greater extent, perhaps reflecting a greater requirement for top-down executive control in this group, a finding that may be relevant to disorders of executive/attentional control.
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