Individual differences in response speed and accuracy are associated to specific brain activities of two interacting systems

Rinaldo Livio Perri, Marika Berchicci, Donatella Spinelli, Francesco Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The study investigates the neurocognitive stages involved in the speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT). Contrary to previous approach, we did not manipulate speed and accuracy instructions: participants were required to be fast and accurate in a go/no-go task, and we selected post-hoc the groups based on the subjects' spontaneous behavioral tendency. Based on the reaction times, we selected the fast and slow groups (Speed-groups), and based on the percentage of false alarms, we selected the accurate and inaccurate groups (Accuracy-groups). The two Speed-groups were accuracy-matched, and the two Accuracy-groups were speed-matched. High density electroencephalographic (EEG) and stimulus-locked analyses allowed us to observe group differences both before and after the stimulus onset. Long before the stimulus appearance, the two Speed-groups showed different amplitude of the Bereitschaftspotential (BP), reflecting the activity of the supplementary motor area (SMA); by contrast, the two Accuracy-groups showed different amplitude of the prefrontal negativity (pN), reflecting the activity of the right prefrontal cortex (rPFC). In addition, the post-stimulus event-related potential (ERP) components showed differences between groups: the P1 component was larger in accurate than inaccurate group; the N1 and N2 components were larger in the fast than slow group; the P3 component started earlier and was larger in the fast than slow group. The go minus no-go subtractive wave enhancing go-related processing revealed a differential prefrontal positivity (dpP) that peaked at about 330 ms; the latency and the amplitude of this peak were associated with the speed of the decision process and the efficiency of the stimulusresponse mapping, respectively. Overall, data are consistent with the view that speed and accuracy are processed by two interacting but separate neurocognitive systems, with different features in both the anticipation and the response execution phases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number251
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberJULY
Publication statusPublished - Jul 22 2014


  • Bereitschaftspotential (BP)
  • Decision making
  • EEG
  • Event related potentials (ERPs)
  • Movement-related cortical potentials (MRCPs)
  • Speed-accuracy tradeoff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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