Error awareness and the insula: links to neurological and psychiatric diseases

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Feb 4;7:14. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00014. eCollection 2013.


Becoming aware of errors that one has committed might be crucial for strategic behavioral and neuronal adjustments to avoid similar errors in the future. This review addresses conscious error perception ("error awareness") in healthy subjects as well as the relationship between error awareness and neurological and psychiatric diseases. We first discuss the main findings on error awareness in healthy subjects. A brain region, that appears consistently involved in error awareness processes, is the insula, which also provides a link to the clinical conditions reviewed here. Then we focus on a neurological condition whose core element is an impaired awareness for neurological consequences of a disease: anosognosia for hemiplegia (AHP). The insular cortex has been implicated in both error awareness and AHP, with anterior insular regions being involved in conscious error processing and more posterior areas being related to AHP. In addition to cytoarchitectonic and connectivity data, this reflects a functional and structural gradient within the insula from anterior to posterior. Furthermore, studies dealing with error awareness and lack of insight in a number of psychiatric diseases are reported. Especially in schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) the performance monitoring system seems impaired, thus conscious error perception might be altered.

Keywords: anosognosia; conscious error perception; error awareness; error positivity (Pe); error-related negativity (ERN); insula; lack of insight.