Stimulus modality, perceptual overlap, and the go/no-go N2

Psychophysiology. 2004 Jan;41(1):157-60. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-8986.2003.00128.x.


Stimuli that elicit a prepotent but incorrect response are typically associated with an enhanced electrophysiological N2 that is thought to index the operation of a control process such as inhibition or conflict detection. However, recent studies reporting the absence of the N2 modulation in go/no-go tasks involving auditory stimuli challenge this view: It is not clear why inhibition or conflict detection should be sensitive to the modality of the stimulus. Here we present electrophysiological data from a go/no-go task suggesting that the relative size of the N2 modulation in visual and auditory tasks depends on the perceptual overlap between the go and no-go stimuli. Stimuli that looked similar but sounded different were associated with a typical visual N2 modulation and the absence of an auditory N2 modulation, consistent with previous findings. However, when we increased the perceptual overlap between the auditory stimuli, a large no-go N2 was observed. These findings are discussed in terms of existing hypotheses of the N2, and clarify why previous studies have not found an N2 modulation in auditory go/no-go tasks.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Speech Perception / physiology*