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Reduced error monitoring in children with autism spectrum disorder: an ERP study

Authors


Dr P. Vlamings, as above.
E-mail: p.vlamings@psychology.unimaas.nl

Abstract

This study investigated self-monitoring in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with event-related potentials looking at both the error-related negativity (ERN) and error-related positivity (Pe). The ERN is related to early error/conflict detection, and the Pe has been associated with conscious error evaluation or attention allocation. In addition, post-error slowing in reaction times (RTs) was measured. Children with ASD and age- and IQ- matched controls were administered an easy and a hard version of an auditory decision task. Results showed that the ERN was smaller in children with ASD but localized in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in both groups. In addition we found a negativity on correct trials (CRN) that did not differ between the groups. Furthermore, a reduced Pe and a lack of post-error slowing in RTs were found in children with ASD. The reduced ERN in children with ASD, in the presence of an intact CRN, might suggest a specific insensitivity to detect situations in which the chance of making errors is enhanced. This might in turn lead to reduced error awareness/attention allocation to the erroneous event (reduced Pe) and eventually in a failure in change of strategy to deal with a situation, as becomes evident from the lack of post-error slowing in the ASD group. This relates well to the perseverative behaviour that is seen in children with ASD. We discuss these results in terms of a general deficit in self-monitoring, underlying social disturbance in ASD and the involvement of the ACC.

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