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Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jun;48(7):2098-109. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.03.031. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

Altered cingulate sub-region activation accounts for task-related dissociation in ERN amplitude as a function of obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

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  • 1University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA.


Larger error-related negativities (ERNs) have been consistently found in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients, and are thought to reflect the activities of a hyperactive cortico-striatal circuit during action monitoring. We previously observed that obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptomatic students (non-patients) have larger ERNs during errors in a response competition task, yet smaller ERNs in a reinforcement learning task. The finding of a task-specific dissociation suggests that distinct yet partially overlapping medio-frontal systems underlie the ERN in different tasks, and that OC symptoms are associated with functional differences in these systems. Here, we used EEG source localization to identify why OC symptoms are associated with hyperactive ERNs to errors yet hypoactive ERNs when selecting maladaptive actions. At rest, OC symptomatology predicted greater activity in rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) and lower activity in dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). When compared to a group with low OC symptom scores, the high OC group had greater rACC reactivity during errors in the response competition task and less deactivation of dACC activity during errors in the reinforcement learning task. The degree of activation in these areas correlated with ERN amplitudes during both tasks in the high OC group, but not in the low group. Interactive anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) systems associated avoidance of maladaptive actions were intact in the high OC group, but were related to poorer performance on a third task: probabilistic reversal learning. These novel findings link both tonic and phasic activities in the ACC to action monitoring alterations, including dissociation in performance deficits, in OC symptomatic participants.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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