Spatial and temporal characteristics of error-related activity in the human brain

J Neurosci. 2015 Jan 7;35(1):253-66. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1313-14.2015.


A number of studies have focused on the role of specific brain regions, such as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex during trials on which participants make errors, whereas others have implicated a host of more widely distributed regions in the human brain. Previous work has proposed that there are multiple cognitive control networks, raising the question of whether error-related activity can be found in each of these networks. Thus, to examine error-related activity broadly, we conducted a meta-analysis consisting of 12 tasks that included both error and correct trials. These tasks varied by stimulus input (visual, auditory), response output (button press, speech), stimulus category (words, pictures), and task type (e.g., recognition memory, mental rotation). We identified 41 brain regions that showed a differential fMRI BOLD response to error and correct trials across a majority of tasks. These regions displayed three unique response profiles: (1) fast, (2) prolonged, and (3) a delayed response to errors, as well as a more canonical response to correct trials. These regions were found mostly in several control networks, each network predominantly displaying one response profile. The one exception to this "one network, one response profile" observation is the frontoparietal network, which showed prolonged response profiles (all in the right hemisphere), and fast profiles (all but one in the left hemisphere). We suggest that, in the place of a single localized error mechanism, these findings point to a large-scale set of error-related regions across multiple systems that likely subserve different functions.

Keywords: error; functional networks; meta-analysis; resting state; task control.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult