Disentangling associations between impulsivity, compulsivity, and performance monitoring

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Disorders marked by high levels of impulsivity and compulsivity have been linked to changes in performance monitoring, specifically the error-related negativity (ERN). We investigated the relationship between performance monitoring and individual differences in impulsivity and compulsivity. A total of 142 participants were recruited into four groups, each with different combinations of impulsivity and compulsivity, and they performed a flanker task to assess error-related brain activity. We defined error-related brain activity as ERN amplitude and theta power. Single-trial regression was employed to analyze the amplitude differences between incorrect and correct trials within the ERN time window. The findings revealed that impulsivity, compulsivity, and different measures of response processing exhibited distinct interactions, which were influenced by the configuration of impulsivity and compulsivity, but also depended on the measure of response processing. Specifically, high compulsivity predicted larger ERN amplitudes in individuals with low impulsivity, whereas high impulsivity had no significant effect on ERN amplitude in individuals with low compulsivity. Furthermore, when both impulsivity and compulsivity were high, no significant increase in ERN amplitude was observed; instead, there was a reduced difference between incorrect and correct trials. No significant differences were found for theta power. While the association between error-related brain activity and transdiagnostic markers or psychopathology may be smaller than generally assumed, considering the interaction between different transdiagnostic markers and their facets can enhance our understanding of the complex associations that arise during the investigation of neural correlates of performance monitoring, specifically the ERN.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14539
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

External IDs

PubMed 38332720
ORCID /0000-0002-7336-7984/work/161408089
ORCID /0000-0002-8845-8803/work/161406421



  • ERN, compulsivity, impulsivity, performance monitoring, theta power, transdiagnostic, Humans, Compulsive Behavior/physiopathology, Brain/physiology, Male, Electroencephalography, Young Adult, Evoked Potentials/physiology, Impulsive Behavior/physiology, Reaction Time/physiology, Theta Rhythm/physiology, Adolescent, Female, Adult, Psychomotor Performance/physiology