Impact of orbitofrontal lesions on electrophysiological signals in a stop signal task


Behavioral inhibition and performance monitoring are critical cognitive functions supported by distributed neural networks including the pFC. We examined neurophysiological correlates of motor response inhibition and action monitoring in patients with focal orbitofrontal (OFC) lesions (n = 12) after resection of a primary intracranial tumor or contusion because of traumatic brain injury. Healthy participants served as controls (n = 14). Participants performed a visual stop signal task. We analyzed behavioral performance as well as event-related brain potentials and oscillations. Inhibition difficulty was adjusted individually to yield an equal amount of successful inhibitions across participants. RTs of patients and controls did not differ significantly in go trials or in failed stop trials, and no differences were observed in estimated stop signal RT. However, electrophysiological response patterns during task performance distinguished the groups. Patients with OFC lesions had enhanced P3 amplitudes to congruent condition go signals and to stop signals. In stop trials, patients had attenuated N2 and error-related negativity, but enhanced error positivity. Patients also showed enhanced and prolonged post-error beta band increases for stop errors. This effect was particularly evident in patients whose lesion extended to the subgenual cingulate cortex. In summary, although response inhibition was not impaired, the diminished stop N2 and ERN support a critical role of the OFC in action monitoring. Moreover, the increased stop P3, error positivity, and post-error beta response indicate that OFC injury affected action outcome evaluation and support the notion that the OFC is relevant for the processing of abstract reinforcers such as performing correctly in the task.