Reduced premovement positivity during the stimulus-response interval precedes errors: Using single-trial and regression ERPs to understand performance deficits in ADHD

Scott J. Burwell, Scott Makeig, William G. Iacono, Stephen M. Malone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Brain mechanisms linked to incorrect response selections made under time pressure during cognitive task performance are poorly understood, particularly in adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Using subject-specific multimodal imaging (electroencephalogram, magnetic resonance imaging, behavior) during flanker task performance by a sample of 94 human adolescents (mean age = 15.5 years, 50% female) with varying degrees of ADHD symptomatology, we examined the degree to which amplitude features of source-resolved event-related potentials (ERPs) from brain-independent component processes within a critical (but often ignored) period in the action selection process, the stimulus-response interval, were associated with motor response errors (across trials) and error rates (across individuals). Response errors were typically preceded by two smaller peaks in both trial-level and trial-averaged ERP projections from posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC): a frontocentral P3 peaking about 390 ms after stimulus onset, and a premovement positivity (PMP) peaking about 110 ms before the motor response. Separating overlapping stimulus-locked and response-locked ERP contributions using a “regression ERP” approach showed that trial errors and participant error rates were primarily associated with smaller PMP, and not with frontocentral P3. Moreover, smaller PMP mediated the association between larger numbers of errors and ADHD symptoms, suggesting the possible value of using PMP as an intervention target to remediate performance deficits in ADHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13392
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was made possible by funding from grant number AA017314 from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as well as grant numbers DA036216 and DA05147 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In addition, SJB is funded by a NIDA T32 postdoctoral fellowship (DA037183) and received funding from the Society for Psychophysiological Research that enabled mentorship from SM at the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience (SCCN) at UCSD. SJB would like to acknowledge Shelby Piepho for assistance with manual preprocessing of structural MRI images as part of an undergraduate research experience. Also, SJB would like to thank Dr. Zeynep Akalin Acar and Matthew Burns at the SCCN for providing feedback in computational head modeling and regression ERP procedures, respectively, as well as Dr. Philip Burton at UMN's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research for his expert guidance in the cross-subject dipole coregistration method. SM's participation was funded by a gift from The Swartz Foundation (Old Field, NY).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Psychophysiological Research


  • ADHD
  • ERP
  • medial frontal cortex
  • performance monitoring
  • premovement positivity
  • stimulus-response interval


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