Error-related negativity abnormalities in generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Xiao Z, Wang J, Zhang M, Li H, Tang Y, Wang Y, Fan Q, Fromson JA

Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry 2011 Jan;35(1):265-72

PMID: 21111024


Enhanced error-related negativity (ERN) has been associated with anxiety among both non-clinical and clinical populations. However, whether it is abnormal among adult patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is still unknown. The present study investigated it across GAD and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Event related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded from a group of 27 GAD patients, 25 OCD patients and 27 healthy control participants during a modified Erikson Flankers task. ERP difference waveforms were obtained by subtracting ERP to correct response (CRN) from ERP to error response (ERN). The Ne component of ERPs at medial frontal electrodes were analyzed and reported. The Ne component of ERP difference waveform was enhanced only in OCD patients, but not in GAD patients, as compared to the healthy controls. An exploratory analysis also revealed higher Ne amplitude of error trial waveforms in both GAD and OCD patients than in healthy controls, and an insignificant group difference in Ne component of correct trial waveforms. The Ne amplitude of error trial waveforms also correlated with Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA) scores and with Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) scores across the three subject groups. The main findings of the present study suggest that error processing is altered in OCD but not in GAD, and that ERN abnormalities in GAD are possibly associated with an overactive response checking process or excessive response monitoring.