Frontal Monitoring and Parietal Evidence: Mechanisms of Error Correction


When we respond to a stimulus, our decisions are based not only on external stimuli but also on our ongoing performance. If the response deviates from our goals, monitoring and decision-making brain areas interact so that future behavior may change. By taking advantage of natural variation in error salience, as measured by the RT taken to correct an error (RTEC), here we argue that an evidence accumulation framework provides a potential underlying mechanism for this variable process of error identification and correction, as evidenced by covariation of frontal monitoring and parietal decision-making processes. We study two early EEG signals linked to monitoring within medial PFC—the error-related negativity (ERN) and frontocentral theta activity—and a third EEG signal, the error positivity (Pe), that is thought to share the same parietal substrates as a signal (the P3b) proposed to reflect evidence accumulation. As predicted, our data show that on slow RTEC trials, frontal monitoring resources are less strongly employed, and the latency of the Pe is longer. Critically, the speed of the RTEC also covaries with the magnitude of subsequent neural (intertrial alpha power) and behavioral (post-error slowing) adjustments following the correction. These results are synthesized to describe a timing diagram for adaptive decision-making after errors and support a potential evidence accumulation mechanism in which error signaling is followed by rapid behavioral adjustments.