ERN varies with degree of psychopathy in an emotion discrimination task

Biol Psychol. 2007 Sep;76(1-2):31-42. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2007.05.004. Epub 2007 May 31.


It is hypothesized that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) function may be disrupted in psychopathy. Since ACC is considered the generator of the error-related negativity (ERN), we expected the ERN to be sensitive to the degree of psychopathy among violent offenders. EEG was collected while offenders and controls responded to a standard letter flanker task and to a face flanker task that required discrimination between angry and fearful expressions. Offenders were as accurate as controls on the letter flanker task but made more errors in emotion discrimination on the face flanker task. ERNs elicited by letter flanker errors did not differ across groups but were markedly reduced in the offenders in the face flanker condition. These effects were related to the degree of psychopathy within the offender group. Source modelling of the ERN also indicated an atypical response for psychopaths when error monitoring required the discrimination of affectively based information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Contingent Negative Variation / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology