Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Subliminal visual stimuli affect motor planning, but the size of such effects differs greatly between individuals. Here, we investigated whether such variation may be related to neurochemical differences between people. Cortical responsiveness is expected to be lower under the influence of more of the main inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. Thus, we hypothesized that, if an individual has more GABA in the supplementary motor area (SMA)--a region previously associated with automatic motor control--this would result in smaller subliminal effects. We measured the reversed masked prime--or negative compatibility--effect, and found that it correlated strongly with GABA concentration, measured with magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This occurred specifically in the SMA region, and not in other regions from which spectroscopy measurements were taken. We replicated these results in an independent cohort: more GABA in the SMA region is reliably associated with smaller effect size. These findings suggest that, across individuals, the responsiveness of subconscious motor mechanisms is related to GABA concentration in the SMA.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Biol

Publication Date





1779 - 1785


Adult, Brain Mapping, Humans, Individuality, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Motor Cortex, Movement, Neuropsychological Tests, Unconscious (Psychology), Young Adult, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid