Brain potentials of conflict and error-likelihood following errorful and errorless learning in obsessive-compulsive disorder

Anke Hammer*, Andreas Kordon, Marcus Heldmann, Bartosz Zurowski, Thomas F. Münte

*Corresponding author for this work
17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is thought to be overacting in patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) reflecting an enhanced action monitoring system. However, influences of conflict and error-likelihood have not been explored. Here, the error-related negativity (ERN) originating in ACC served as a measure of conflict and error-likelihood during memory recognition following different learning modes. Errorless learning prevents the generation of false memory candidates and has been shown to be superior to trial-and-error-learning. The latter, errorful learning, introduces false memory candidates which interfere with correct information in later recognition leading to enhanced conflict processing. Methodology/Principal Findings: Sixteen OCD patients according to DSM-IV criteria and 16 closely matched healthy controls participated voluntarily in the event-related potential study. Both, OCD- and control group showed enhanced memory performance following errorless compared to errorful learning. Nevertheless, response-locked data showed clear modulations of the ERN amplitude. OCD patients compared to controls showed an increased error-likelihood effect after errorless learning. However, with increased conflict after errorful learning, OCD patients showed a reduced error-likelihood effect in contrast to controls who showed an increase. Conclusion/Significance: The increase of the errorlikelihood effect for OCD patients within low conflict situations (recognition after errorless learning) might be conceptualized as a hyperactive monitoring system. However, within high conflict situations (recognition after EF-learning) the opposite effect was observed: whereas the control group showed an increased error-likelihood effect, the OCD group showed a reduction of the error-likelihood effect based on altered ACC learning rates in response to errors. These findings support theoretical frameworks explaining differences in ACC activity on the basis of conflict and perceived error-likelihood as influenced by individual error learning rate.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6553
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12.08.2009

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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