Is the 'error negativity' specific to errors?

Biol Psychol. 2000 Jan;51(2-3):109-28. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0511(99)00032-0.


When subjects make an erroneous response in a choice reaction time task, an error negativity, or error-related negativity (N(E)/ERN), peaking at about 100 ms after EMG onset, has been described. This wave is often considered to be absent on correct response trials. We report a small N(E)/ERN wave on correct response trials during a choice reaction time task in which surface Laplacians were estimated by the source derivation method. This wave is well focused at FCz, and its time course is the same for correct responses trials, incorrect sub-threshold EMG activation trials, and error trials. Current source density maps, also indicate a focus at FCz. A second experiment showed the existence of a N(E) at FCz on correct trials during a simple RT task. Rather than an error detection process per se, we propose that the N(E)/ERN reflects either a comparison process leading secondarily to error detection, or an emotional reaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Electrooculography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Speech Perception / physiology