Neural correlates of error prediction in a complex motor task
The goal of the study was to quantify error prediction processes via neural correlates in the Electroencephalogram (EEG). Access to such a neural signal will allow to gain insights into functional and temporal aspects of error perception in the course of learning. We focused on the error negativity (Ne) or error-related negativity (ERN) as a ... candidate index for the prediction processes. We have used a virtual goal-oriented throwing task where participants used a lever to throw a virtual ball displayed on a computer monitor with the goal of hitting a virtual target as often as possible. After one day of practice with 400 trials, participants performed another 400 trials on a second day with EEG measurement. After error trials (i.e., when the ball missed the target), we found a sharp negative deflection in the EEG peaking 250 ms after ball release (mean amplitude: t = -2.5, df = 20, p = 0.02) and another broader negative deflection following the first, reaching from about 300 ms after release until unambiguous visual knowledge of results (KR; hitting or passing by the target; mean amplitude: t = -7.5, df = 20, p < 0.001). According to shape and timing of the two deflections, we assume that the first deflection represents a predictive Ne/ERN (prediction based on efferent commands and proprioceptive feedback) while the second deflection might have arisen from action monitoring.