Maturation- and aging-related differences in electrophysiological correlates of error detection and error awareness
Franka Thurm, Shu-Chen Li, Dorothea Hämmerer
The error-related negativity (ERN/Ne) as well as the early and late error positivity (Pe) are electrophysiological correlates known to reflect error detection and error awareness. Despite much evidence on age differences in mastering response conflicts, the development and the functional distinctiveness of these components across the lifespan is still unclear. Here we investigated maturation- and aging-related differences in the ERN/Ne, the early and late Pe during a response conflict task in a lifespan sample that included 45 children, 42 adolescents, 39 younger and 34 older adults. Lifespan age differences were characterized by marked declines of all three components in older age, whereas clear maturation effects from childhood to adolescence were only observed for error detection reflected in the ERN/Ne component. Furthermore, using regression analyses, we examined functional relationships of the error monitoring components to behavioral indicators of task performance. Across all age groups, both the ERN/Ne and the early Pe were related to response accuracy, but only the early Pe was further associated with performance in a covariate task indicative of perceptual processing and attention capacities. Our results suggest that the ERN/Ne, the early and late Pe reflect distinct but complementary processes of error monitoring across the lifespan.