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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2019 May 25;38:100665. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100665. [Epub ahead of print]

Error processing in the adolescent brain: Age-related differences in electrophysiology, behavioral adaptation, and brain morphology.

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Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. Electronic address:
Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.
Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, Canada; Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
Multimodal Imaging and Cognitive Control Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway.
PROMENTA Research Center, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; NORMENT, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital & Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; Department of Psychiatry, Diakonhjemmet Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


Detecting errors and adjusting behaviour appropriately are fundamental cognitive abilities that are known to improve through adolescence. The cognitive and neural processes underlying this development, however, are still poorly understood. To address this knowledge gap, we performed a thorough investigation of error processing in a Flanker task in a cross-sectional sample of participants 8 to 19 years of age (n = 98). We examined age-related differences in event-related potentials known to be associated with error processing, namely the error-related negativity (ERN) and the error positivity (Pe), as well as their relationships with task performance, post-error adjustments and regional cingulate cortex thickness and surface area. We found that ERN amplitude increased with age, while Pe amplitude remained constant. A more negative ERN was associated with higher task accuracy and faster reaction times, while a more positive Pe was associated with higher accuracy, independently of age. When estimating post-error adjustments from trials following both incongruent and congruent trials, post-error slowing and post-error improvement in accuracy both increased with age, but this was only found for post-error slowing when analysing trials following incongruent trials. There were no age-independent associations between either ERN or Pe amplitude and cingulate cortex thickness or area measures.


Adolescence; Cognitive development; Error positivity; Error related negativity; MRI; Post-error adjustments

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