The error-related negativity (ERN) and psychopathology: toward an endophenotype

Clin Psychol Rev. 2008 Dec;28(8):1343-54. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2008.07.003. Epub 2008 Jul 9.


The ERN is a negative deflection in the event-related potential that peaks approximately 50 ms after the commission of an error. The ERN is thought to reflect early error-processing activity of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). First, we review current functional, neurobiological, and developmental data on the ERN. Next, the ERN is discussed in terms of three psychiatric disorders characterized by abnormal response monitoring: anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse. These data indicate that increased and decreased error-related brain activity is associated with the internalizing and externalizing dimensions of psychopathology, respectively. Recent data further suggest that abnormal error-processing indexed by the ERN indexes trait- but not state-related symptoms, especially related to anxiety. Overall, these data point to utility of ERN in studying risk for psychiatric disorders, and are discussed in terms of the endophenotype construct.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / genetics*
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Arousal / genetics
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Contingent Negative Variation / genetics*
  • Contingent Negative Variation / physiology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Motivation
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Phenotype*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / genetics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology