Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 60–70 | Cite as

Individual differences discriminate event-related potentials but not performance during response inhibition

  • Richard A. P. RocheEmail author
  • Hugh Garavan
  • John J. Foxe
  • Shane M. O’Mara
Research Article


Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded from 20 normal participants while they completed a Go/NoGo response inhibition task. Previous ERP studies have implicated the N2 and P3 waveforms as the main indices of processing in this task, and functional brain imaging has shown parietal, prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices to be involved in response inhibition. 32-channel ERP analysis revealed amplitude differences in the N2/P3 components when stimuli that required a button-press (Go stimuli) were compared with stimuli for which the response had to be withheld (No-Go stimuli), and in N2 and P3 latencies when successful withholds to No-Go stimuli were compared with unsuccessful attempts to inhibit. Further differences in the N2/P3 complex emerged when participants were grouped in terms of a measure of absentmindedness (the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire, CFQ); larger and earlier components were found for high CFQ respondents. We conclude that the latencies of the N2 and P3 may be the critical indicators of active inhibitory processes for this task, suggesting that a pattern of sequential activation rather than altered activity level in key structures may mediate success on the task. In addition, highly absentminded participants exhibited larger components for errors than did less absentminded participants when performing at the same level, which implies that the absentminded may require greater activity in the neural substrates of response inhibition in order to accomplish this task at a comparable level of performance to less absentminded participants.


Cognitive failures questionnaire Event-related potentials Go/NoGo N2/P3 complex 



This work was supported by Enterprise Ireland and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI); S.M. O’Mara was in receipt of a Berkeley Fellowship from Trinity College (2000–2001). H. Garavan was in receipt of NIDA support: DA14100. Thanks go to Deirdre Foxe and Glenn Wylie at NKI for their assistance with ERP analyses. Special thanks go to our participants for their patience and cooperation, to Miguel Angel Rodriguez at Medtech for technical assistance, to Kevin Murphy (Trinity College) for writing the program, and to Sean Commins (NUI Maynooth) and Ian Robertson (Trinity College) for useful discussions. We thank two anonymous reviewers for useful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. P. Roche
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hugh Garavan
    • 1
  • John J. Foxe
    • 2
  • Shane M. O’Mara
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology & Trinity College Institute of NeuroscienceUniversity of Dublin, Trinity CollegeDublinIreland
  2. 2.The Nathan Kline InstituteOrangeburgUSA

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