Effects of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs on action monitoring in healthy volunteers

Brain Res. 2006 Aug 11;1105(1):122-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2006.01.006. Epub 2006 Feb 24.


Humans need to monitor their actions continuously to detect errors as fast as possible and to adjust their performance to prevent future errors. This process of action monitoring can be investigated by measuring the error-related negativity (ERN), an ERP component elicited immediately after an error. In the current study, we investigated action monitoring after administration of the classic antipsychotic haloperidol (2.5 mg), the atypical antipsychotic olanzapine (10 mg), and the antidepressant paroxetine (20 mg), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Healthy volunteers (N = 14) were administered the three compounds and placebo in a randomized, double-blind, single-dose, four-way cross-over design. All participants performed a speeded two-choice reaction task, while event-related potentials and behavioral measurements were obtained. Both haloperidol and olanzapine significantly reduced ERN amplitudes. After paroxetine, the ERN was not different from placebo. N2 congruency effects were not affected by treatment condition. Only olanzapine demonstrated behavioral effects, namely a slowing of responses, an increase in error rates, and the absence of performance adjustments. The attenuated ERNs after the dopamine antagonist haloperidol are in line with the presumed role of dopamine in action monitoring. Haloperidol is thought to block dopaminergic signaling, thus reducing ERN amplitudes. On the other hand, the effects of olanzapine are mainly caused by its sedative side effects, leading to a decline in motivation and appraisal of errors. Finally, the absence of any effects after paroxetine suggests that serotonin transmission does not play a direct role in regulating mechanisms related to action monitoring.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage
  • Brain Mapping
  • Contingent Negative Variation / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Haloperidol / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Olanzapine
  • Paroxetine / administration & dosage
  • Reaction Time / drug effects*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Paroxetine
  • Haloperidol
  • Olanzapine