The error-related negativity (ERN) is a neuroelectric signature of performance monitoring during speeded response time tasks. Previous studies indicate that individuals with anxiety disorders show ERN enhancements that correlate with the degree of clinical symptomology. Less is known about the error monitoring system in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by impairments in the regulation of fear and other emotional responses, as well as deficits in maintaining cognitive control. Here, combat Veterans with PTSD were compared to control Veterans in two different versions of the flanker task (n=13 or 14 per group). Replicating and extending previous findings, PTSD patients showed an intact ERN in both experiments. In addition, task performance and error compensation behavior were intact. Finally, ERN amplitude showed no relationship with self-reported PTSD, depression, or post-concussive symptoms. These results suggest that error monitoring represents a relative strength in PTSD that can dissociate from cognitive control functions that are impaired, such as response inhibition and sustained attention. A healthy awareness of errors in external actions could be leveraged to improve interoceptive awareness of emotional state. The results could have positive implications for PTSD treatments that rely on self-monitoring abilities, such as neurofeedback and mindfulness training.
Swick, D., Honzel, N. & Turken, A.U. (2015). Intact error monitoring in combat Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 234: 227–238. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2015.09.016