The subthalamic nucleus contributes to post-error slowing

James F. Cavanagh, Joseph L. Sanguinetti, John J.B. Allen, Scott J. Sherman, Michael J. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


pFC is proposed to implement cognitive control via directed “top–down” influence over behavior. But how is this feat achieved? The virtue of such a descriptive model is contingent on a mechanistic understanding of how motor execution is altered in specific circumstances. In this report, we provide evidence that the well-known phenomenon of slowed RTs following mistakes (post-error slowing) is directly influenced by the degree of subthalamic nucleus (STN) activity. The STN is proposed to act as a brake on motor execution following conflict or errors, buying time so a more cautious response can be made on the next trial. STN local field potentials from nine Parkinson disease patients undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery were recorded while they performed a response conflict task. In a 2.5- to 5-Hz frequency range previously associated with conflict and error processing, the degree phase consistency preceding the response was associated with increasingly slower RTs specifically following errors. These findings provide compelling evidence that post-error slowing is in part mediated by a corticosubthalamic “hyperdirect” pathway for increased response caution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2637-2644
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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