Jan R Wessel

CSU Mentor, Long Beach, California, United States

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Publications (19)79.52 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Impulsive behavior in humans partly relates to inappropriate overvaluation of reward-associated stimuli. Hence, it is desirable to develop methods of behavioral modification that can reduce stimulus value. Here, we tested whether one kind of behavioral modification-the rapid stopping of actions in the face of reward-associated stimuli-could lead to subsequent devaluation of those stimuli. We developed a novel paradigm with three consecutive phases: implicit reward learning, a stop-signal task, and an auction procedure. In the learning phase, we associated abstract shapes with different levels of reward. In the stop-signal phase, we paired half those shapes with occasional stop-signals, requiring the rapid stopping of an initiated motor response, while the other half of shapes was not paired with stop signals. In the auction phase, we assessed the subjective value of each shape via willingness-to-pay. In 2 experiments, we found that participants bid less for shapes that were paired with stop-signals compared to shapes that were not. This suggests that the requirement to try to rapidly stop a response decrements stimulus value. Two follow-on control experiments suggested that the result was specifically due to stopping action rather than aversiveness, effort, conflict, or salience associated with stop signals. This study makes a theoretical link between research on inhibitory control and value. It also provides a novel behavioral paradigm with carefully operationalized learning, treatment, and valuation phases. This framework lends itself to both behavioral modification procedures in clinical disorders and research on the neural underpinnings of stimulus devaluation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Journal of Experimental Psychology General 10/2014; · 3.99 Impact Factor
  • Jan R Wessel, Adam R Aron
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    ABSTRACT: Much research has modeled action-stopping using the stop-signal task (SST), in which an impending response has to be stopped when an explicit stop-signal occurs. A limitation of the SST is that real-world action-stopping rarely involves explicit stop-signals. Instead, the stopping-system engages when environmental features match more complex stopping goals. For example, when stepping into the street, one monitors path, velocity, size, and types of objects; and only stops if there is a vehicle approaching. Here, we developed a task in which participants compared the visual features of a multidimensional go-stimulus to a complex stopping-template, and stopped their go-response if all features matched the template. We used independent component analysis of EEG data to show that the same motor inhibition brain network that explains action-stopping in the SST also implements motor inhibition in the complex-stopping task. Furthermore, we found that partial feature overlap between go-stimulus and stopping-template lead to motor slowing, which also corresponded with greater stopping-network activity. This shows that the same brain system for action-stopping to explicit stop-signals is recruited to slow or stop behavior when stimuli match a complex stopping goal. The results imply a generalizability of the brain's network for simple action-stopping to more ecologically valid scenarios.
    NeuroImage 09/2014; · 6.25 Impact Factor
  • Jan R Wessel
    The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 07/2014; 34(27):8934-6.
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    ABSTRACT: The right inferior frontal cortex (rIFC) is important for stopping responses. Recent research shows that it is also activated when response emission is slowed down when stopping is anticipated. This suggests that rIFC also functions as a goal-driven brake. Here, we investigated the causal role of rIFC in goal-driven braking by using computer-controlled, event-related (chronometric), direct electrical stimulation (DES). We compared the effects of rIFC stimulation on trials in which responses were made in the presence versus absence of a stopping-goal ("Maybe Stop" [MS] vs "No Stop" [NS]). We show that DES of rIFC slowed down responses (compared with control-site stimulation) and that rIFC stimulation induced more slowing when motor braking was required (MS) compared with when it was not (NS). Our results strongly support a causal role of a rIFC-based network in inhibitory motor control. Importantly, the results extend this causal role beyond externally driven stopping to goal-driven inhibitory control, which is a richer model of human self-control. These results also provide the first demonstration of double-blind chronometric DES of human prefrontal cortex, and suggest that-in the case of rIFC-this could lead to augmentation of motor braking.
    Journal of Neuroscience 12/2013; 33(50):19611-19619. · 6.91 Impact Factor
  • Jan R Wessel, Adam R Aron
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    ABSTRACT: When an unexpected event occurs in everyday life (e.g., a car honking), one experiences a slowing down of ongoing action (e.g., of walking into the street). Motor slowing following unexpected events is a ubiquitous phenomenon, both in laboratory experiments as well as such everyday situations, yet the underlying mechanism is unknown. We hypothesized that unexpected events recruit the same inhibition network in the brain as does complete cancellation of an action (i.e., action-stopping). Using electroencephalography and independent component analysis in humans, we show that a brain signature of successful outright action-stopping also exhibits activity following unexpected events, and more so in blocks with greater motor slowing. Further, using transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure corticospinal excitability, we show that an unexpected event has a global motor suppressive effect, just like outright action-stopping. Thus, unexpected events recruit a common mechanism with outright action-stopping, moreover with global suppressive effects. These findings imply that we can now leverage the considerable extant knowledge of the neural architecture and functional properties of the stopping system to better understand the processing of unexpected events, including perhaps how they induce distraction via global suppression.
    Journal of Neuroscience 11/2013; 33(47):18481-18491. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Unexpected events can have internal causes (action errors) as well as external causes (perceptual novelty). Both events call for adaptations of ongoing behavior, resulting, amongst other things, in post-error and post-novelty slowing (PES/PNS) of reaction times (RT). Both types of events are processed in prefrontal brain areas, indexed by event-related potentials (ERPs): Errors are followed by a complex of ERPs comprised of the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe), whereas novels are followed by a N2/P3 complex. However, despite those overlapping properties, past neuroscientific studies of both types of events resulted in largely separate branches of research. Only recently have theoretical efforts proposed overlapping neuronal networks for the computation of 'unexpectedness' in general. Crucially, in a recent study, we have shown that both errors and novelty are indeed processed in the same neuronal network in the human brain: the prefrontal-cingulate performance-monitoring network (PCMN) underlying the ERN also explained significant parts of the N2/P3 complex. Here, we attempt to take this research further by investigating the causal role of the PCMN in both error and novelty processing. Eight patients with ischemic lesions to the PCMN and eight control participants performed a version of the flanker task in which they made errors, while also being presented with unexpected action effects on a subset of otherwise correct trials. In line with our predictions, lesions to the PCMN lead to significant reductions in ERP amplitude following both errors and perceptual novelty. Also, while the age-matched control participants showed the expected pattern of adaptive RT slowing to both errors and novelty, patients did not exhibit adaptive slowing behaviors following either event. These results support recent theoretical accounts according to which a general PCMN reacts to surprising events, regardless of valence and/or source of the unexpectedness.
    Cortex 09/2013; · 6.16 Impact Factor
  • Ian Greenhouse, Jan R Wessel
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    ABSTRACT: Preparing to stop may "prime" the neural mechanism for stopping and alter brain activity at the time of stopping. Much electroencephalography (EEG) research has studied the N2/P3 complex over frontocentral electrodes during outright stopping. Here, we used differential reward of the stop and go processes in a stop signal task to study the sensitivity of these EEG components to preparation. We found that (a) stopping was faster when it was rewarded; (b) the P3 amplitude was larger for successful versus failed stopping, and this difference was greater when stopping was rewarded over going; (c) the N2 component was observed only on failed stop trials; and (d) there was greater EEG coherence between frontocentral and occipitoparietal electrodes at 12 Hz during the initiation of a go response when stopping was rewarded over going. We propose that frontocentral cortical mechanisms active before and at the time of stopping are sensitive to preparation.
    Psychophysiology 06/2013; · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stopping inappropriate eye-movements is a cognitive control function that allows humans to perform well in situations that demand attentional focus. The stop-signal task (SST) is an experimental model for this behavior. Participants initiate a saccade towards a target and occasionally have to try to stop the impending saccade if a stop signal occurs. Prior research using a version of this paradigm for limb-movements (hand, leg), as well as for speech, has shown that rapidly stopping action leads to apparently global suppression of the motor system, as indexed by the Corticospinal Excitability (CSE) of task-unrelated effectors in studies with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) of M1. Here, we measured CSE from the hand with high temporal precision while participants made saccades, and while they successfully and unsuccessfully stopped these saccades in response to a stop signal. We show that 50 ms before the estimated time at which a saccade is successfully stopped there is reduced CSE for the hand, which was task irrelevant. This shows that rapidly stopping eye movements also has global motor effects. We speculate that this arises because rapidly stopping eye movements, like skeleto-motor movements, is possibly achieved via input to the subthalamic nucleus of the basal ganglia, with a putatively broad suppressive effect on thalamocortical drive. Since recent studies suggest that this suppressive effect could also impact non-motor representations, the current finding points to a possible mechanistic basis for some kinds of distractibility: abrupt onset stimuli will interrupt ongoing processing by generating global motor and non-motor effects.
    Journal of Neurophysiology 05/2013; · 3.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It has been proposed that working memory (WM) is updated/manipulated via a fronto-basal-ganglia circuit. One way that this could happen is via the synchronization of neural oscillations. A first step toward testing this hypothesis is to clearly establish a frontal scalp EEG signature of WM manipulation. Although many EEG studies have indeed revealed frontal EEG signatures for WM, especially in the theta frequency band (3-8 Hz), few of them required subjects to manipulate WM, and of those that did, none specifically tied the EEG signature to the manipulation process per se. Here we employed a WM manipulation task that has been shown with imaging to engage the prefrontal cortex and the striatum. We adapted this task to titrate the success of WM manipulation to approximately 50 %. Using time-frequency analysis of EEG, we showed that theta power increased over frontal cortex for successful versus failed WM manipulation, specifically at the time of the manipulation event. This establishes a clear-cut EEG signature of WM manipulation. Future studies could employ this to test the fronto-basal-ganglia hypothesis of WM updating/manipulation.
    Experimental Brain Research 10/2012; · 2.22 Impact Factor
  • Jan R Wessel
    Physics of Life Reviews 07/2012; 9(3):299-300. · 6.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: According to recent accounts, the processing of errors and generally infrequent, surprising (novel) events share a common neuroanatomical substrate. Direct empirical evidence for this common processing network in humans is, however, scarce. To test this hypothesis, we administered a hybrid error-monitoring/novelty-oddball task in which the frequency of novel, surprising trials was dynamically matched to the frequency of errors. Using scalp electroencephalographic recordings and event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we compared neural responses to errors with neural responses to novel events. In Experiment 1, independent component analysis of scalp ERP data revealed a common neural generator implicated in the generation of both the error-related negativity (ERN) and the novelty-related frontocentral N2. In Experiment 2, this pattern was confirmed by a conjunction analysis of event-related fMRI, which showed significantly elevated BOLD activity following both types of trials in the posterior medial frontal cortex, including the anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC), the neuronal generator of the ERN. Together, these findings provide direct evidence of a common neural system underlying the processing of errors and novel events. This appears to be at odds with prominent theories of the ERN and aMCC. In particular, the reinforcement learning theory of the ERN may need to be modified because it may not suffice as a fully integrative model of aMCC function. Whenever course and outcome of an action violates expectancies (not necessarily related to reward), the aMCC seems to be engaged in evaluating the necessity of behavioral adaptation.
    Journal of Neuroscience 05/2012; 32(22):7528-37. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    Jan R Wessel
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    ABSTRACT: From its discovery in the early 1990s until this day, the error-related negativity (ERN) remains the most widely investigated electrophysiological index of cortical error processing. When researchers began addressing the electrophysiology of subjective error awareness more than a decade ago, the role of the ERN, alongside the subsequently occurring error positivity (Pe), was an obvious locus of attention. However, the first two studies explicitly addressing the role of error-related event-related brain potentials (ERPs) would already set the tone for what still remains a controversy today: in contrast to the clear-cut findings that link the amplitude of the Pe to error awareness, the association between ERN amplitude and error awareness is vastly unclear. An initial study reported significant differences in ERN amplitude with respect to subjective error awareness, whereas the second failed to report this result, leading to a myriad of follow-up studies that seemed to back up or contradict either view. Here, I review those studies that explicitly dealt with the role of the error-related ERPs in subjective error awareness, and try to explain the differences in reported effects of error awareness on ERN amplitude. From the point of view presented here, different findings between studies can be explained by disparities in experimental design and data analysis, specifically with respect to the quantification of subjective error awareness. Based on the review of these results, I will then try to embed the error-related negativity into a widely known model of the implementation of access consciousness in the brain, the global neuronal workspace (GNW) model, and speculate as the ERN's potential role in such a framework. At last, I will outline future challenges in the investigation of the cortical electrophysiology of error awareness, and offer some suggestions on how they could potentially be addressed.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2012; 6:88. · 2.91 Impact Factor
  • Jan R Wessel, Hilde Haider, Michael Rose
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    ABSTRACT: Implicit learning, i.e. knowledge acquisition in incidental learning situations, is a fundamental feature of the human mind. The extraction of (and subsequent adaptation to) regular patterns in the environment facilitates everyday actions. The cognitive and neural processes accompanying the transition from subconscious (implicit) to verbally reportable (explicit) knowledge about task contingencies are of high interest to the cognitive neurosciences, since they indicate a process that generates awareness for learned associations. Previous studies indicated an important role of high-frequency coupling (gamma-band) for the process that initiates the emergence of awareness for an implicitly learned task-underlying structure. It is unclear, however, whether this EEG coupling is indicative of a general, task-independent process accompanying the shift between implicit and explicit knowledge. To test the general role of this synchrony effect, we investigated EEG gamma-band coherence in the time period where this transition takes place using a serial reaction time paradigm. As expected, we find increased coupling in the gamma-band EEG between right prefrontal and occipital electrode sites just before the behavioural manifestation of emerging explicit sequence representation. These results support both the notion of general involvement of widespread cortical associative couplings in the generation of conscious knowledge and the necessity to study emerging consciously available memory representations using fine-grained properties of behavioural data.
    Experimental Brain Research 12/2011; 217(1):153-62. · 2.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The differences between erroneous actions that are consciously perceived as errors and those that go unnoticed have recently become an issue in the field of performance monitoring. In EEG studies, error awareness has been suggested to influence the error positivity (Pe) of the response-locked event-related brain potential, a positive voltage deflection prominent approximately 300 msec after error commission, whereas the preceding error-related negativity (ERN) seemed to be unaffected by error awareness. Erroneous actions, in general, have been shown to promote several changes in ongoing autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity, yet such investigations have only rarely taken into account the question of subjective error awareness. In the first part of this study, heart rate, pupillometry, and EEG were recorded during an antisaccade task to measure autonomic arousal and activity of the CNS separately for perceived and unperceived errors. Contrary to our expectations, we observed differences in both Pe and ERN with respect to subjective error awareness. This was replicated in a second experiment, using a modified version of the same task. In line with our predictions, only perceived errors provoke the previously established post-error heart rate deceleration. Also, pupil size yields a more prominent dilatory effect after an erroneous saccade, which is also significantly larger for perceived than unperceived errors. On the basis of the ERP and ANS results as well as brain-behavior correlations, we suggest a novel interpretation of the implementation and emergence of error awareness in the brain. In our framework, several systems generate input signals (e.g., ERN, sensory input, proprioception) that influence the emergence of error awareness, which is then accumulated and presumably reflected in later potentials, such as the Pe.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 01/2011; 23(10):3021-36. · 4.49 Impact Factor
  • Jan R Wessel, Markus Ullsperger
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    ABSTRACT: Following the development of increasingly precise measurement instruments and fine-grain analysis tools for electroencephalographic (EEG) data, analysis of single-trial event-related EEG has considerably widened the utility of this non-invasive method to investigate brain activity. Recently, independent component analysis (ICA) has become one of the most prominent techniques for increasing the feasibility of single-trial EEG. This blind source separation technique extracts statistically independent components (ICs) from the EEG raw signal. By restricting the signal analysis to those ICs representing the processes of interest, single-trial analysis becomes more flexible. Still, the selection-criteria for in- or exclusion of certain ICs are largely subjective and unstandardized, as is the actual selection process itself. We present a rationale for a bottom-up, data-driven IC selection approach, using clear-cut inferential statistics on both temporal and spatial information to identify components that significantly contribute to a certain event-related brain potential (ERP). With time-range being the only necessary input, this approach considerably reduces the pre-assumptions for IC selection and promotes greater objectivity of the selection process itself. To test the validity of the approach presented here, we present results from a simulation and re-analyze data from a previously published ERP experiment on error processing. We compare the ERP-based IC selections made by our approach to the selection made based on mere signal power. The comparison of ERP integrity, signal-to-noise ratio, and single-trial properties of the back-projected ICs outlines the validity of the approach presented here. In addition, functional validity of the extracted error-related EEG signal is tested by investigating whether it is predictive for subsequent behavioural adjustments.
    NeuroImage 10/2010; 54(3):2105-15. · 6.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To detect erroneous action outcomes is necessary for flexible adjustments and therefore a prerequisite of adaptive, goal-directed behavior. While performance monitoring has been studied intensively over two decades and a vast amount of knowledge on its functional neuroanatomy has been gathered, much less is known about conscious error perception, often referred to as error awareness. Here, we review and discuss the conditions under which error awareness occurs, its neural correlates and underlying functional neuroanatomy. We focus specifically on the anterior insula, which has been shown to be (a) reliably activated during performance monitoring and (b) modulated by error awareness. Anterior insular activity appears to be closely related to autonomic responses associated with consciously perceived errors, although the causality and directions of these relationships still needs to be unraveled. We discuss the role of the anterior insula in generating versus perceiving autonomic responses and as a key player in balancing effortful task-related and resting-state activity. We suggest that errors elicit reactions highly reminiscent of an orienting response and may thus induce the autonomic arousal needed to recruit the required mental and physical resources. We discuss the role of norepinephrine activity in eliciting sufficiently strong central and autonomic nervous responses enabling the necessary adaptation as well as conscious error perception.
    Brain Structure and Function 06/2010; 214(5-6):629-43. · 7.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An arrow version of the Eriksen flanker task was employed to investigate the influence of conflict on the error-related negativity (ERN). The degree of conflict was modulated by varying the distance between flankers and the target arrow (CLOSE and FAR conditions). Error rates and reaction time data from a behavioral experiment were used to adapt a connectionist model of this task. This model was based on the conflict monitoring theory and simulated behavioral and event-related potential data. The computational model predicted an increased ERN amplitude in FAR incompatible (the low-conflict condition) compared to CLOSE incompatible errors (the high-conflict condition). A subsequent ERP experiment confirmed the model predictions. The computational model explains this finding with larger post-response conflict in far trials. In addition, data and model predictions of the N2 and the LRP support the conflict interpretation of the ERN.
    Psychophysiology 08/2009; 46(6):1288-98. · 3.29 Impact Factor
  • Jan R. Wessel, M. Rose, H. Haider
    International Journal of Psychophysiology, v.69, 3, 178-179 (2008). 01/2008;
  • Frontiers in Human Neuroscience - FRONT HUM NEUROSCI. 01/2008;

Publication Stats

248 Citations
79.52 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • CSU Mentor
      Long Beach, California, United States
  • 2011–2013
    • University of California, San Diego
      • Department of Psychology
      San Diego, California, United States
  • 2009–2012
    • Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research
      Köln, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany