Emotion Sensitivity of the Error-Related Negativity in Hoarding Individuals

  • Peter A. BaldwinEmail author
  • Thomas J. Whitford
  • Jessica R. Grisham


Emerging research suggests that hoarding individuals display atypical activation in their anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Hemodynamic studies have found a biphasic pattern of ACC activity in hoarding individuals that appears sensitive to possession-related decision-making. Electrophysiological studies suggest that hoarding individuals display a blunted error-related negativity (ERN); an event-related potential originating from the ACC that indexes error-detection. These neural abnormalities may reflect an error sensitivity in hoarding individuals as they acquire and discard, however it may also reflect the hyper-emotionality often reported by individuals who hoard. The present study aimed to examine the emotional sensitivity of the error-related negativity in hoarding individuals outside a possession-related context. Seventeen hoarding individuals and 16 healthy controls underwent continuous electroencephalography (EEG) as they completed Go/No-Go (GNGT) tasks design to elicit the ERN. Identical GNGT tasks were completed both before and after watching a negative mood induction video, and self-reported distress was measured throughout. Neither group displayed any neural effect of the negative mood induction, however the hoarding group displayed a pattern of blunted ERN consistent with previous research. This study provides additional evidence that hoarding individuals display blunted indices of error-detection outside possession-related decision-making. Future research could explore if this reflects a pathophysiology shared with other psychiatric disorders that feature a blunted ERN, and if error-detection is also abnormal as hoarding individuals acquire and discard their possessions.


Hoarding EEG Error-related negativity Emotion 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Peter A. Baldwin, Thomas J. Whitford, and Jessica R. Grisham declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Experiment Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUNSW SydneyRandwickAustralia

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