External error monitoring in subclinical obsessive-compulsive subjects: Electrophysiological evidence from a gambling task

Abstract

Background: Feedback-related negativity (FRN) is believed to be an important electrophysiology index of "external" negative feedback processing. Previous studies on FRN in obsessive-compulsive (OC) individuals are scarce and controversial. In these studies, anxiety symptoms were not evaluated in detail. However, OC disorders have a number of radical differences from anxiety disorders. It is necessary to study FRN and its neuroanatomical correlates in OC individuals without anxious symptoms. Methods: A total of 628 undergraduate students completed an OC questionnaire. We chose 14 students who scored in the upper 10% and 14 students who scored in the lowest 10% without anxiety symptoms as a subclinical OC group (SOC) and a low obsessive-compulsive group (LOC). The students all performed the revised Iowa Gambling Task. We used the eventrelated potentials (ERP) and standardized low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA) to track external negative feedback processing and its substrate in the brain. Results: Our study revealed poorer decision-making ability and greater FRN amplitudes in SOC subjects compared with LOC controls. The SOC subjects displayed anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC) hyperactivation during the loss feedback condition. Specifically, we found an intercorrelation of current source density during the loss condition between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and aPFC in the LOC subjects but not in the SOC group. Conclusions: Our results support the notion that overactive external feedback error processing may reflect a candidate endophenotype of OC. We also provide important information on the dysfunction in the interaction between aPFC and dACC in populations with OC. Nevertheless, the findings support that OC may be distinguished from other anxiety disorders using a new electrophysiology perspective.

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