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Error Awareness Revisited: Accumulation of Multimodal Evidence from Central and Autonomic Nervous Systems
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2011) 23 (10): 3021–3036.
Published: 01 October 2011
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The differences between erroneous actions that are consciously perceived as errors and those that go unnoticed have recently become an issue in the field of performance monitoring. In EEG studies, error awareness has been suggested to influence the error positivity (Pe) of the response-locked event-related brain potential, a positive voltage deflection prominent approximately 300 msec after error commission, whereas the preceding error-related negativity (ERN) seemed to be unaffected by error awareness. Erroneous actions, in general, have been shown to promote several changes in ongoing autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity, yet such investigations have only rarely taken into account the question of subjective error awareness. In the first part of this study, heart rate, pupillometry, and EEG were recorded during an antisaccade task to measure autonomic arousal and activity of the CNS separately for perceived and unperceived errors. Contrary to our expectations, we observed differences in both Pe and ERN with respect to subjective error awareness. This was replicated in a second experiment, using a modified version of the same task. In line with our predictions, only perceived errors provoke the previously established post-error heart rate deceleration. Also, pupil size yields a more prominent dilatory effect after an erroneous saccade, which is also significantly larger for perceived than unperceived errors. On the basis of the ERP and ANS results as well as brain–behavior correlations, we suggest a novel interpretation of the implementation and emergence of error awareness in the brain. In our framework, several systems generate input signals (e.g., ERN, sensory input, proprioception) that influence the emergence of error awareness, which is then accumulated and presumably reflected in later potentials, such as the Pe.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2006) 18 (4): 651–664.
Published: 01 April 2006
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The basal ganglia have been suggested to play a key role in performance monitoring and resulting behavioral adjustments. It is assumed that the integration of prefrontal and motor cortico—striato—thalamo—cortical circuits provides contextual information to the motor anterior cingulate cortex regions to enable their function in performance monitoring. So far, direct evidence is missing, however. We addressed the involvement of frontostriatal circuits in performance monitoring by collecting event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and behavioral data in nine patients with focal basal ganglia lesions and seven patients with lateral prefrontal cortex lesions while they performed a flanker task. In both patient groups, the amplitude of the error-related negativity was reduced, diminishing the difference to the ERPs on correct responses. Despite these electrophysiological abnormalities, most of the patients were able to correct errors. Only in lateral prefrontal cortex patients whose lesions extended into the frontal white matter, disrupting the connections to the motor anterior cingulate cortex and the striatum, were error corrections severely impaired. In sum, the fronto—striato—thalamo—cortical circuits seem necessary for the generation of error-related negativity, even when brain plasticity has resulted in behavioral compensation of the damage. Thus, error-related ERPs in patients provide a sensitive measure of the integrity of the performance monitoring network.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2005) 17 (9): 1367–1375.
Published: 01 September 2005
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Cognitive control processes enable us to adjust our behavior to changing environmental demands. Although neuropsychological studies suggest that the critical cortical region for cognitive control is the prefrontal cortex, neuro-imaging studies have emphasized the interplay of prefrontal and parietal cortices. This raises the fundamental question about the different contributions of prefrontal and parietal areas in cognitive control. It was assumed that the prefrontal cortex biases processing in posterior brain regions. This assumption leads to the hypothesis that neural activity in the prefrontal cortex should precede parietal activity in cognitive control. The present study tested this assumption by combining results from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) providing high spatial resolution and event-related potentials (ERPs) to gain high temporal resolution. We collected ERP data using a modified task-switching paradigm. In this paradigm, a situation where the same task was indicated by two different cues was compared with a situation where two cues indicated different tasks. Only the latter condition required updating of the task set. Task-set updating was associated with a midline negative ERP deflection peaking around 470 msec. We placed dipoles in regions activated in a previous fMRI study that used the same paradigm (left inferior frontal junction, right inferior frontal gyrus, right parietal cortex) and fitted their directions and magnitudes to the ERP effect. The frontal dipoles contributed to the ERP effect earlier than the parietal dipole, providing support for the view that the prefrontal cortex is involved in updating of general task representations and biases relevant stimulus-response associations in the parietal cortex.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2000) 12 (6): 924–940.
Published: 01 November 2000
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A central issue in the research of directed forgetting is whether the differential memory performance for to-be-remembered (TBR) and to-be-forgotten (TBF) items is solely due to differential encoding or whether retrieval inhibition of TBF items plays an additional role. In this study, recognition-related event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were used to examine this issue. The spatio-temporal distributions of the old/new ERP effects obtained in Experiment 1 that employed a directed forgetting paradigm were compared with those recorded in Experiment 2 in which the level of processing was manipulated. In Experiment 1, participants were instructed to remember or to forget words by means of a cue presented after each word. ERPs recorded in the recognition test revealed early phasic frontal and parietal old/new effects for TBR items, whereas TBF items elicited only a frontal old/new effect. Moreover, a late right-frontal positive slow wave was more pronounced for TBF items, suggesting that those items were associated with a larger amount of post-retrieval processing. In Experiment 2, the same cueing method and the same stimulus materials were used, and memory encoding was manipulated by cueing participants to process the words either deeply or shallowly. Both deeply and shallowly encoded items elicited phasic frontal and parietal old/new effects followed by a late right-frontal positive slow wave. However, in contrast to TBR and TBF items, these effects differed only quantitatively. The results suggest that differential encoding alone cannot account for the effects of directed forgetting. They are more consistent with the view that items followed by an instruction to forget become inhibited and less accessible, and, therefore, more difficult to retrieve.