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The term inhibition describes generally a restraint on something. In neuroscience and in experimental psychology it is used to describe several different phenomena, which all have in common that they can be understood as processes of neural and/or mental counter-regulation.

Inhibition in neuroscience[edit]

In neuroscience term inhibition...

...has many different meanings, ranging from mechanisms governing behavioral output, to circuits between brain regions, to cellular firing, to enzymes. [...] Overall, although inhibition has many meanings in the wide domain of neuroscience [...], each meaning can be clearly defined because the inhibitory mechanism can either be observed neurophysiologically or clearly operationalized in terms of behavior. (Aron, 2007, p.214) [1]

Processes of inhibition occur in the following neuroscientific phenomena:

Inhibition in psychology[edit]

In psychology the term inhibition is often used to describe processes of attention- or response-regulation. While these inhibition approaches seem to include an executive process (or plain spoken an active will), others - like latent inhibition or extinction - musn't or even don't. Accordingly, the term inhibition can be used to describe the result of a deliberate process (like in the activation-suppression model [2]) as well as to name a rather automatic process, which was developed throughout implicit learning without one's awareness. Thus, different meanings of psychological inhibition are not easy to distinguish nor to define, and Aron (2007, p. 226) concludes:

Many behavioral results could be explained just as well, or even better, without using this concept. A clear exception, however, is in the motor domain - where a fast, active mechanism of behavioral inhibition is needed to countermand already initiated responses. [1]

The term inhibition is used for the following phenomena of experimental psychology:

  • Motor inhibition or Behavioral Inhibition: Suppression of a physical response
  • Inhibition in selective attention': The inhibition of distractors as well as attention-related inhibition effects (e.g. inhibition of return).
  • Inhibition of emotions:
  • Memory inhibition: Processes that suppress or interfere with specific memories (e.g. item-related inhibition processes like latent inhibition).
  • Extinction: A conditioning phenomenon that occurs when the reinforcement of a stimulus is stopped.

Inhibition and frontal lobe damage[edit]



  1. ^ a b Aron, Adam R. (2007). "The Neural Basis of Inhibition in Cognitive Control". THE NEUROSCIENTIST. 13 (3): 214–228. 
  2. ^ Ridderinkhof, K. R. (2002a). Activation and suppression in conflict tasks: Empirical clarification through distributional analyses. In W. Prinz & B. Hommel (Eds.), Common Mechanisms in Perception and Action. Attention & Performance, Vol. XIX (pp. 494-519). Oxford: Oxford University Press.