Electrophysiological correlates of performance monitoring in middle and late adolescence
Santesso, Diane L.
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The ability to monitor and evaluate the consequences of ongoing behaviors and coordinate behavioral adjustments seems to rely on networks including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and phasic changes in dopamine activity. Activity (and presumably functional maturation) of the ACC may be indirectly measured using the error-related negativity (ERN), an event-related potential (ERP) component that is hypothesized to reflect activity of the automatic response monitoring system. To date, no studies have examined the measurement reliability of the ERN as a trait-like measure of response monitoring, its development in mid- and late- adolescence as well as its relation to risk-taking and empathic ability, two traits linked to dopaminergic and ACC activity. Utilizing a large sample of 15- and 18-year-old males, the present study examined the test-retest reliability of the ERN, age-related changes in the ERN and other components of the ERP associated with error monitoring (the Pe and CRN), and the relations of the error-related ERP components to personality traits of risk propensity and empathy. Results indicated good test-retest reliability of the ERN providing important validation of the ERN as a stable and possibly trait-like electrophysiological correlate of performance monitoring. Ofthe three components, only the ERN was of greater amplitude for the older adolescents suggesting that its ACC network is functionally late to mature, due to either structural or neurochemical changes with age. Finally, the ERN was smaller for those with high risk propensity and low empathy, while other components associated with error monitoring were not, which suggests that poor ACe function may be associated with the desire to engage in risky behaviors and the ERN may be influenced by the extent of individuals' concern with the outcome of events.