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Biol Psychol. 2001 Jun;56(3):173-89.

Why is there an ERN/Ne on correct trials? Response representations, stimulus-related components, and the theory of error-processing.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cognitive Psychophysiology. Laboratory, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.


The ERN or Ne is a component of the event-related brain potential that occurs when human subjects make errors in reaction time tasks. It is observed in response-locked averages, time-locked to the execution of the incorrect response. Recent research has reported that this component is present on correct response trials, thereby challenging the idea that the component is specifically related to error-processing. In this paper, we argue that the ERN or Ne observed on correct trials can be attributed to one or both of two factors: either there is error-processing on correct trials, and/or the response-locked averages used to derive the ERN/Ne are contaminated by negative components evoked by the stimulus. For this reason, there is no reason to abandon theories that relate the ERN/Ne to error-processing.

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