Padilla, M.L., Colrain, I.M., Sullivan, E.V. et al. Electrophysiological evidence of enhanced performance monitoring in recently abstinent alcoholic men. Psychopharmacology 213, 81–91 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-010-2018-1
Chronic alcoholism is associated with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Under certain conditions, impairment can be ameliorated by invoking compensatory processes.
To identify electrophysiological mechanisms of such compensation that would be required to resolve response conflict.
14 abstinent alcoholic men and 14 similarly aged control men performed a variation of the Eriksen flanker task during an electroencephalography (EEG) recording to examine whether alcoholics could achieve and maintain control-level performance and whether EEG markers could identify evidence for the action of compensatory processes in the alcoholics. Monitoring processes engaged following a response were indexed by the correct related negativity (CRN) and error related negativity (ERN), two medial–frontal negative event-related potentials.
The alcoholics were able to perform at control levels on accuracy and reaction time (RT). Alcoholics generated larger ERN amplitudes following incorrect responses and larger CRNs following correct responses than controls. Both groups showed evidence of post-error slowing. Larger CRN amplitudes in the alcoholics were related to longer RTs. Also observed in the alcoholics was an association between smaller CRN amplitudes and length of sobriety, suggesting a normalization of monitoring activity with extended abstinence.
To the extent that greater amplitude of these electrophysiological markers of performance monitoring indexes greater resource allocation and performance compensation, the larger amplitudes observed in the alcoholic than control group support the view that elevated performance monitoring enables abstinent alcoholics to overcome response conflict, as was evident in their control-level performance.