Neural correlates of error awareness.

Research paper by Tilmann A TA Klein, Tanja T Endrass, Norbert N Kathmann, Jane J Neumann, D Yves DY von Cramon, Markus M Ullsperger

Indexed on: 23 Dec '06Published on: 23 Dec '06Published in: NeuroImage


Error processing results in a number of consequences on multiple levels. The posterior frontomedian cortex (pFMC) is involved in performance monitoring and signalling the need for adjustments, which can be observed as post-error speed-accuracy shifts at the behavioural level. Furthermore autonomic reactions to an error have been reported. The role of conscious error awareness for this processing cascade has received little attention of researchers so far. We examined the neural correlates of conscious error perception in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. An antisaccade task known to yield sufficient numbers of aware and unaware errors was used. Results from a metaanalysis were used to guide a region of interest (ROI) analysis of the fMRI data. Consistent with previous reports, error-related activity in the rostral cingulate zone (RCZ), the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) and the insular cortex bilaterally was found. Whereas the RCZ activity did not differentiate between aware and unaware errors, activity in the left anterior inferior insular cortex was stronger for aware as compared to unaware errors. This could be due to increased awareness of the autonomic reaction to an error, or the increased autonomic reaction itself. Furthermore, post-error adjustments were only observed after aware errors and a correlation between post-error slowing and the hemodynamic activity in the RCZ was revealed. The data suggest that the RCZ activity alone is insufficient to drive error awareness. Its signal appears to be useful for post-error speed-accuracy adjustments only when the error is consciously perceived.