Cortisol involvement in mechanisms of behavioral inhibition

Psychophysiology. 2011 May;48(5):723-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01131.x. Epub 2010 Sep 27.


We studied whether baseline cortisol is associated with post-error slowing, a measure that depends upon brain areas involved in behavioral inhibition. Moreover, we studied whether this association holds after controlling for positive associations with behavioral inhibition scores and error-related negativity (ERN) amplitudes that cortisol and post-error slowing may share. Healthy female volunteers performed a flanker task. Cortisol was independently positively associated with post-error slowing and the ERN, supporting hypotheses that cortisol is involved in behavioral inhibition. Additionally, cortisol mediated an association between ERN and more post-error slowing, which suppressed a direct association between ERN and less post-error slowing. The results are relevant, not only for researchers of behavioral inhibition, but also for researchers of the basic mechanisms of the ERN and post-error slowing, and may bring those literatures together.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saliva / metabolism


  • Hydrocortisone