Impact of frontal white matter lesions on performance monitoring: ERP evidence for cortical disconnection

Brain. 2006 Aug;129(Pt 8):2177-88. doi: 10.1093/brain/awl160. Epub 2006 Jun 30.


We examined the impact of discrete white matter lesions in the frontal lobes on event-related potential (ERP) correlates of performance monitoring. We tested the hypothesis that abnormal performance monitoring may result from injury to white matter without evidence of injury to grey matter in the frontal lobes. It was predicted that such lesions may result in disconnection of the lateral and medial frontal cortices. The close interaction of these two areas has been implicated in performance monitoring. Two fast-choice response tasks were administered to patients with MRI-confirmed frontal white matter lesions due to sickle cell disease (SCD) vasculopathy (n = 11; age = 11-23 years; 6 unilateral left lesions and 5 bilateral lesions) and two control groups: SCD patients without brain lesions and non-sickle cell sibling controls (n = 11 each). Stimulus-locked ERP components N2 and P3 were not significantly affected by presence of lesions. The difference between response-locked components to correct trials (correct-response negativity--CRN) and erroneous trials (error-related negativity--ERN) was diminished in patients with unilateral and bilateral frontal white matter lesions. This finding was due to a significantly attenuated ERN amplitude in lesion patients compared with both sibling and non-lesion control groups. These ERP findings were not due to performance differences between groups and hence reflect a compromised neural substrate underlying performance monitoring. The latter may also contribute to the deficits in executive function tasks observed in these patients. As disruption to ERP markers of error processing was found in the absence of lesions to the lateral or medial frontal cortex, we conclude that a functional connection between these areas facilitates performance monitoring, possibly implemented via tracts traversing the deep frontal white matter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / complications
  • Attention
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebral Infarction / etiology
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / psychology*
  • Child
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted