Evidence for a deficit in the salience attribution to errors in smokers

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jan 15;106(2-3):181-5. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2009.08.014. Epub 2009 Sep 24.


The persisting use of substances despite of adverse consequences is one of the hallmarks of addictive behaviors such as cigarette smoking. In the present study we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate one aspect of adverse consequences: responses to errors in smokers versus non-smokers. The aim of this study was to determine whether cigarette smokers display error-processing deficits as measured using error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe). ERPs during an Eriksen flanker task were recorded from smokers and a non-smoking control group. Smokers showed the same ERN response as controls after making an error. However, the later Pe response was reduced as compared to the control group. On the behavioral level, we observed a trend towards increased error rates of smokers on incongruent trials. The present findings reveal that cigarette smoking is associated with reduced error processing. More specifically, while initial error processing seem intact, brain systems reflecting the motivational significance of a performance error seem compromised. It is argued that these cognitive deficits may cause or contribute to the persistence of smoking behavior and addictive behaviors in general.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Behavior
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Perception*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Respiration
  • Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Carbon Monoxide