Behavioral Response Error Monitoring and Correction Function Deficits in Autism

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
G. Sokhadze1, E. M. Sokhadze1, D. P. Kelly2 and M. F. Casanova3, (1)University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, (2)Pediatrics, Greenville Health System, Greenville, SC, (3)Greenville Campus Greenville Health Systems, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Greenville, SC
Background: Error monitoring and correction is one of the executive functions and is important for effective goal directed behavior. Deficient executive functioning, including reduced error monitoring ability, is one of the typical features of such neurodevelopmental disorders as autism resulting in perseverative responding, stereotyped repetitive behaviors, and an inability to accurately monitor ongoing behavior. Our prior studies of behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures during performance on three-stimuli visual oddball tasks in high-functioning autistic (HFA) children showed that despite only minor differences in reaction times HFA children committed significantly more errors.

Objectives: The main goal of the study was to compare behavioral responses and error-monitoring correcting functions in children with ASD and typically developing children.

Methods: This study investigated error monitoring in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with response-locked event-related potentials - the error-related negativity (ERN) and error-related positivity (Pe) recorded at fronto-central sites using dense-array Electrical Geodesics EEG Net Sensor system . The ERN reflects early error detection processes, while Pe has been associated with more late conscious error evaluation and attention re-allocation. Reaction times (RT) in correct trials and post-error slowing in reaction times was measured. Fourteen subjects with ASD and 14 age- and IQ- matched controls were administered a three-category visual oddball task with novel distracters.

Results: The analysis of data showed that the ERN and the Pe component of the response-locked ERP were substantially decreased in children with autism as compared to typical controls. The ERN had lower amplitude and longer latency in ASD group but localized in the caudal part of anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in both groups. The Pe component was significantly prolonged but did not reach significant amplitude differences in ASD group compared to controls. We found significant post-error slowing in RTs in controls, and post-error acceleration in RTs in ASD group.

Conclusions: The reduced ERN and altered Pe along with a lack of post-error RT slowing in autism might be interpreted as an insensitivity to detect and monitor response errors and reduced ability of execute corrective actions. This might result in reduced error awareness and a failure in adjustment when dealing with situations where erroneous responses may occur. This deficit might be manifested in the perseverative behaviors often seen in individuals with ASD. The results are discussed in terms of a general impairment in self-monitoring and other executive functions underlying behavioral and social disturbances in ASD.