Opposite effects of cannabis and cocaine on performance monitoring

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Jul;26(7):1127-39. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2016.03.015. Epub 2016 Apr 19.


Drug use is often associated with risky and unsafe behavior. However, the acute effects of cocaine and cannabis on performance monitoring processes have not been systematically investigated. The aim of the current study was to investigate how administration of these drugs alters performance monitoring processes, as reflected in the error-related negativity (ERN), the error positivity (Pe) and post-error slowing. A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized three-way crossover design was used. Sixty-one subjects completed a Flanker task while EEG measures were obtained. Subjects showed diminished ERN and Pe amplitudes after cannabis administration and increased ERN and Pe amplitudes after administration of cocaine. Neither drug affected post-error slowing. These results demonstrate diametrically opposing effects on the early and late phases of performance monitoring of the two most commonly used illicit drugs of abuse. Conversely, the behavioral adaptation phase of performance monitoring remained unaltered by the drugs.

Keywords: Cannabis; Cocaine; Error positivity; Error-related negativity; Performance monitoring.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cannabis*
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Executive Function / drug effects*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Young Adult


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Cocaine