Tracking post-error adaptation in the motor system by transcranial magnetic stimulation

J. L. Amengual*, J. Marco-Pallarés, L. Richter, S. Oung, A. Schweikard, B. Mohammadi, A. Rodríguez-Fornells, T. F. Münte

*Corresponding author for this work
8 Citations (Scopus)


The commission of an error triggers cognitive control processes dedicated to error correction and prevention. Post. -error adjustments leading to response slowing following an error ("post-error slowing"; PES) might be driven by changes in excitability of the motor regions and the corticospinal tract (CST). The time-course of such excitability modulations of the CST leading to PES is largely unknown. To track these presumed excitability changes after an error, single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to the motor cortex ipsilateral to the responding hand, while participants were performing an Eriksen flanker task. A robotic arm with a movement compensation system was used to maintain the TMS coil in the correct position during the experiment. Magnetic pulses were delivered over the primary motor cortex ipsilateral to the active hand at different intervals (150, 300, 450. ms) after correct and erroneous responses, and the motor-evoked potentials (MEP) of the first dorsal interosseous muscle (FDI) contralateral to the stimulated hemisphere were recorded. MEP amplitude was increased 450. ms after the error. Two additional experiments showed that this increase was neither associated to the correction of the erroneous responses nor to the characteristics of the motor command. To the extent to which the excitability of the motor cortex ipsi- and contralateral to the response hand are inversely related, these results suggest a decrease in the excitability of the active motor cortex after an erroneous response. This modulation of the activity of the CST serves to prevent further premature and erroneous responses. At a more general level, the study shows the power of the TMS technique for the exploration of the temporal evolution of post-error adjustments within the motor system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-351
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2013


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