Brain Topography

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 352–363 | Cite as

Missing the Target: the Neural Processing Underlying the Omission Error

  • Rinaldo Livio Perri
  • Donatella Spinelli
  • Francesco Di Russo
Original Paper


The omissions are infrequent errors consisting in missing responses to the target stimuli. This is the first study aimed at investigating the brain activities associated with omissions in a decision-making task. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in 12 subjects which reported a suitable number of omissions in a visual go/no-go task. We investigated both the pre- and post-stimulus brain activities associated with correct and omitted trials. The electrical neuroimaging technique (BESA) was adopted to extract the anterior insula (aIns) activity associated with the prefrontal P2 component (pP2) peaking about 300 ms after the stimulus and reflecting the stimulus–response mapping process. We found that omissions were predicted by a delayed onset (about half a second) of two pre-stimulus components, i.e. the prefrontal negativity (pN) and the Bereitschaftspotential (BP) associated with the top-down control and the motor preparation, respectively. Further, at the post-stimulus stage the omission trials were characterized by the suppression of the pP2 (and the aIns activity as measured by BESA). No differences between omission and correct trials were detected at the level of the P1 and N1 visual components, as well as the P3. These findings would suggest that omissions are attentional lapsebased errors, as indicated by the delayed brain preparation before the stimulus onset. The reduced cortical activity during the preparation phase did not affect the visual processing; in contrast the stimulus categorization process at the level of the anterior insula did not start at all, resulting in the inability to reach a decision.


ERPs Prefrontal negativity (pN) Bereitschaftspotential (BP) Prefrontal P2 (pP2) Anterior insula Omission error 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were approved by the Ethics Committee of the Santa Lucia Foundation and were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


  1. Beck DM, Rees G, Frith CD, Lavie N (2001) Neural correlates of change detection and change blindness. Nat Neurosci 4(6):645–650PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berchicci M, Lucci G, Perri RL, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2014) Benefits of physical exercise on basic visuo-motor functions across age. Front Aging Neurosci 6:48PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berchicci M, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2016) New insights into old waves. Matching stimulus-and response-locked ERPs on the same time-window. Biol Psychol 117:202–215PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birbaumer, N., Elbert, T., Canavan, A., & Rockstroh, B. (1990). Slow potentials of the cerebral cortex and behavior. Physiol Rev, (70), 1–41.Google Scholar
  5. Böcker KB, Brunia CH, van den Berg-Lenssen MM (1994) A spatiotemporal dipole model of the stimulus preceding negativity (SPN) prior to feedback stimuli. Brain Topogr 7(1):71–88PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boettiger CA, D’Esposito M (2005) Frontal networks for learning and executing arbitrary stimuluS–Response associations. J Neurosci 25(10):2723–2732PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bokura H, Yamaguchi S, Kobayashi S (2001) Electrophysiological correlates for response inhibition in a go/nogo task. Clin Neurophysiol 112(12):2224–2232PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Di Russo F, Pitzalis S (2013). EEG-fMRI combination for the study of visual perception and spatial attention. In: Cognitive electrophysiology of attention: signals of the mind, Academic Press, London pp. 58–70Google Scholar
  9. Di Russo F, Martínez A, Hillyard SA (2003) Source analysis of event-related cortical activity during visuo-spatial attention. Cerebral cortex 13(5):486–499PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Di Russo F, Berchicci M, Perri RL, Ripani FR, Ripani M (2013) A passive exoskeleton can push your life up: application on multiple sclerosis patients. PloS ONE 8(10):e77348PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Di Russo F, Lucci G, Sulpizio V, Berchicci M, Spinelli D, Pitzalis S, Galati G (2016) Spatiotemporal brain Mapping during preparation, perception and action. Neuroimage 126:1–14PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Donkers FC, van Boxtel GJ (2004) The N2 in go/no-go tasks reflects conflict monitoring not response inhibition. Brain Cogn 56(2):165–176PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Egner T, Gruzelier JH (2004) EEG biofeedback of low beta band components: frequency-specific effects on variables of attention and event-related brain potentials. Clin Neurophysiol 115(1):131–139PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Falkenstein M, Hohnsbein J, Hoormann J, Blanke L (1991) Effects of crossmodal divided attention on late ERP components. II. Error processing in choice reaction tasks. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 78(6):447–455PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Falkenstein M, Hohnsbein J, & Hoormann J (1994). Event-related potential correlates of errors in reaction tasks. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 44:287–296.Google Scholar
  16. Falkenstein M, Koshlykova, NA., Kiroj VN, Hoormann J, & Hohnsbein J (1995). Late ERP components in visual and auditory Go/Nogo tasks. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 96(1), 36–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Falkenstein M, Hoormann J, Hohnsbein J (1999) ERP components in Go/Nogo tasks and their relation to inhibition. Acta Psychol (Amst) 101(2):267–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Falkenstein M, Hoormann J, Hohnsbein J (2002) Inhibition-related ERP components: Variation with modality, age, and time-on-task. J Psychophysiol 16(3):167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fallgatter AJ, Brandeis D, Strik PW (1997) A robust assessment of the NoGo-anteriorisation of P300 microstates in a cued continuous performance test. Brain Topogr 9(4):295–302PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fukuda M, Hata A, Niwa SI, Hirmatsu KI, Yokokoji M, Hayashida S, et al (1996) Event-related potential correlates of functional hearing loss: reduced P3 amplitude with preserved Nl and N2 components in a unilateral case. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 50(2):85–88PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hahn B, Shoaib M, Stolerman I (2002) Nicotine-induced enhancement of attention in the five-choice serial reaction time task: the influence of task demands. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 162(2):129–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoffmann S, Falkenstein M (2008) The correction of eye blink artefacts in the EEG: a comparison of two prominent methods. PLoS ONE 3(8):e3004PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jung TP, Makeig S, Humphries C, Lee TW, Mckeown MJ, Iragui V, Sejnowski TJ (2000) Removing electroencephalographic artifacts by blind source separation. Psychophysiology 37(02):163–178PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kopp B, Mattler U, Goertz R, Rist F (1996) N2, P3 and the lateralized readiness potential in a nogo task involving selective response priming. Electroencephalogr Clinical Neurophysiol 99(1):19–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Levin ED, Conners CK, Silva D, Hinton SC, Meck WH, March J, Rose JE (1998) Transdermal nicotine effects on attention. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 140(2):135–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lucci G, Berchicci M, Perri RL, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2016) Effect of target probability on pre-stimulus brain activity. Neuroscience 322:121–128PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luck SJ (2004). Ten simple rules for designing and interpreting ERP experiments. In: Handy TC (ed) Event-related potentials: a methods handbook, Cambridge, The MIT PressGoogle Scholar
  28. Luck SJ, Heinze HJ, Mangun GR, Hillyard SA (1990) Visual event-related potentials index focused attention within bilateral stimulus arrays. II. Functional dissociation of P1 and N1 components. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 75(6):528–542PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luck SJ, Vogel EK, Shapiro KL (1996) Word meanings can be accessed but not reported during the attentional blink. Nature 383(6601):616–618PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marois R, Yi DJ, Chun MM (2004) The neural fate of consciously perceived and missed events in the attentional blink. Neuron 41(3):465–472PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mitchell WG, Zhou Y, Chavez JM, Guzman BL (1992) Reaction time, attention, and impulsivity in epilepsy. Pediatr Neurol 8(1):19–24PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nieuwenhuis S, Aston-Jones G, Cohen JD (2005) Decision making, the P3, and the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system. Psychol Bull 131(4):510PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Oldfield RC (1971) The assessment and analysis of handedness: the Edinburgh inventory. Neuropsychologia 104:199–206Google Scholar
  34. Olvet DM, Hajcak G (2008) The error-related negativity (ERN) and psychopathology: toward an endophenotype. Clin Psychol Rev 28(8):1343–1354PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Olvet DM, Hajcak G (2009) The stability of error-related brain activity with increasing trials. Psychophysiology 46(5):957–961PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Perri RL, Berchicci M, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2014) Individual Differences in Response Speed and Accuracy are Associated to Specific Brain Activities of two Interacting Systems. Front Behav Neurosci 8:251PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Perri RL, Berchicci M, Lucci G, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2015a) Why do we make mistakes? Neurocognitive processes during the preparation-perception-action cycle and error-detection. Neuroimage 113:320–328Google Scholar
  38. Perri RL, Berchicci M, Lucci G, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2015b) The premotor role of the prefrontal cortex in response consistency. Neuropsychology 29(5):767–775Google Scholar
  39. Perri RL, Berchicci M, Lucci G, Spinelli D, Di Russo F (2016). How the brain prevents a second error in a perceptual decision–making task. Sci Reports 6.Google Scholar
  40. Pfefferbaum A, Ford JM, Weller BJ, Kopell BS (1985) ERPs to response production and inhibition. Electroencephalography clinical neurophysiology 60(5):423–434PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pontifex MB, Scudder MR, Brown ML, O’Leary KC, Wu CT, Themanson JR, Hillman CH (2010) On the number of trials necessary for stabilization of error-related brain activity across the life span. Psychophysiology 47(4):767–773PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Rolke B, Heil M, Streb J, Hennighausen E (2001) Missed prime words within the attentional blink evoke an N400 semantic priming effect. Psychophysiology 38(02):165–174PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rousselet GA, Thorpe SJ, Fabre-Thorpe M (2004) Processing of one, two or four natural scenes in humans: the limits of parallelism. Vision Res 44(9):877–894PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schiffman HR (1990). Sensation and perception: an integrated approach, John Wiley & Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Schmajuk M, Liotti M, Busse L, Woldorff MG (2006) Electrophysiological activity underlying inhibitory control processes in normal adults. Neuropsychologia 44(3):384–395PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sergent C, Baillet S, Dehaene S (2005) Timing of the brain events underlying access to consciousness during the attentional blink. Nat Neurosci 8(10):1391–1400PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shibasaki H, Hallett M (2006) What is the Bereitschaftspotential? Clin Neurophysiol 117(11):2341–2356PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith JL, Johnstone SJ, Barry RJ (2006) Effects of pre-stimulus processing on subsequent events in a warned Go/NoGo paradigm: response preparation, execution and inhibition. Int J Psychophysiol 3(2):121–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Supèr H, Spekreijse H, Lamme VA (2001) Two distinct modes of sensory processing observed in monkey primary visual cortex (V1). Nat Neurosci 4(3):304–310PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Taylor SF, Stern ER, Gehring WJ (2007) Neural systems for error monitoring: recent findings and theoretical perspectives. The Neuroscientist 13(2):160–172PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. van Boxtel GJ, van der Molen MW, Jennings JR, Brunia CH (2001) A psychophysiological analysis of inhibitory motor control in the stop-signal paradigm. Biol Psychol 58(3):229–262PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vogel EK, Luck SJ, Shapiro KL (1998) Electrophysiological evidence for a postperceptual locus of suppression during the attentional blink. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 24(6):1656PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Weissman DH, Roberts KC, Visscher KM, Woldorff MG (2006) The neural bases of momentary lapses in attention. Nat Neurosci 9(7):971–978PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. White HK, Levin ED (1999) Four-week nicotine skin patch treatment effects on cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 143(2):158–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rinaldo Livio Perri
    • 1
  • Donatella Spinelli
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francesco Di Russo
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Movement, Human and Health SciencesUniversity of Rome “Foro Italico”RomeItaly
  2. 2.Santa Lucia Foundation IRCCSRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations