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Hum Brain Mapp. 2010 Sep;31(9):1305-15. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20937.

Independent component analysis of erroneous and correct responses suggests online response control.

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  • 1Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, Ardeystr. 76, Dortmund, Germany.


After errors in reaction tasks, a sharp negative wave emerges in the event-related potential (ERP), the error (related) negativity (Ne or ERN). However, also after correct trials, an Ne-like wave is seen, called CRN or Nc, which is much smaller than the Ne. This study tested the hypothesis whether Ne and Nc reflect the same functional process, and whether this process is linked to online response control. For this purpose, independent component analysis (ICA) was utilized with the EEG data of two types of reaction tasks: a flanker task and a mental rotation task. To control for speed-accuracy effects, speed and accuracy instructions were balanced in a between subjects design. For both tasks ICA and dipole analysis revealed one component (Ne-IC) explaining most of the variance for the difference between correct and erroneous trials. The Ne-IC showed virtually the same features as the raw postresponse ERP, being larger for erroneous compared to correct trials and for the flanker than for the rotation task. In addition, it peaked earlier for corrected than for uncorrected errors. The results favor the hypothesis that Ne and Nc reflect the same process, which is modulated by response correctness and type of task. On the basis of the literature and the present results, we assume that this process induces online response control, which is much stronger in error than correct trials and with direct rather than indirect stimulus response mapping.

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