York University Logo An automatic behavior may suppress the urge to look at other people on entering an elevator, but the precise regions of the brain leading to this were not known. Scientists from the York University have now shed light on the probable areas of the brain that ‘fire up’ to restrain an automatic behavior. It was suggested that the left inferior frontal cortex, located near the front left temple is involved in this suppression.

During the study, participants were made to look at an image of a facial expression with a word superimposed on it. At the same time investigators employed fMRI for analyzing brain activity of the volunteers. The words were apparently processed faster than the facial expressions. In case the word did not match the image, like when the word ‘sad’ was superimposed on an image of someone smiling, subjects probably reacted less quickly to a request for reading the word. Therefore, it can be concluded that when the emotion in the word doesn’t match the emotion in the facial expression a conflict may arise.

It was revealed that when the study participant was confronted by this conflict between the word and the image and asked to respond to directions that went against their automatic instincts. During this period signal from the left inferior frontal cortex seemingly elevated. Throughout the investigation, experts focused on evaluating higher order cognitive functions such as long-term planning, response suppression and response selection. Joseph DeSouza, assistant professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health and colleagues were possibly able to understand inhibitory mechanisms for tremendously complex stimuli. Those having problems with inhibition, like stroke or schizophrenia supposedly demonstrate damage to their inferior frontal cortex zone.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.