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In Your Face: Risk of Punishment Enhances Cognitive Control and Error-Related Activity in the Corrugator Supercilii Muscle

, : In Your Face: Risk of Punishment Enhances Cognitive Control and Error-Related Activity in the Corrugator Supercilii Muscle. Plos One 8(6): E65692-E65692

Cognitive control is needed when mistakes have consequences, especially when such consequences are potentially harmful. However, little is known about how the aversive consequences of deficient control affect behavior. To address this issue, participants performed a two-choice response time task where error commissions were expected to be punished by electric shocks during certain blocks. By manipulating (1) the perceived punishment risk (no, low, high) associated with error commissions, and (2) response conflict (low, high), we showed that motivation to avoid punishment enhanced performance during high response conflict. As a novel index of the processes enabling successful cognitive control under threat, we explored electromyographic activity in the corrugator supercilii (cEMG) muscle of the upper face. The corrugator supercilii is partially controlled by the anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC) which is sensitive to negative affect, pain and cognitive control. As hypothesized, the cEMG exhibited several key similarities with the core temporal and functional characteristics of the Error-Related Negativity (ERN) ERP component, the hallmark index of cognitive control elicited by performance errors, and which has been linked to the aMCC. The cEMG was amplified within 100 ms of error commissions (the same time-window as the ERN), particularly during the high punishment risk condition where errors would be most aversive. Furthermore, similar to the ERN, the magnitude of error cEMG predicted post-error response time slowing. Our results suggest that cEMG activity can serve as an index of avoidance motivated control, which is instrumental to adaptive cognitive control when consequences are potentially harmful.


PMID: 23840356

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065692

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