Stimulus modality, perceptual overlap, and the go/no-go N2

Sander Nieuwenhuis, Nick Yeung, Jonathan D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Stimuli that elicit a prepotent but incorrect response are typically associated with an enhanced electrophysiological N2 that is thought to index the operation of a control process such as inhibition or conflict detection. However, recent studies reporting the absence of the N2 modulation in go/no-go tasks involving auditory stimuli challenge this view: It is not clear why inhibition or conflict detection should be sensitive to the modality of the stimulus. Here we present electrophysiological data from a go/no-go task suggesting that the relative size of the N2 modulation in visual and auditory tasks depends on the perceptual overlap between the go and no-go stimuli. Stimuli that looked similar but sounded different were associated with a typical visual N2 modulation and the absence of an auditory N2 modulation, consistent with previous findings. However, when we increased the perceptual overlap between the auditory stimuli, a large no-go N2 was observed. These findings are discussed in terms of existing hypotheses of the N2, and clarify why previous studies have not found an N2 modulation in auditory go/no-go tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-160
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Neuroscience


  • Inhibition
  • Monitoring
  • N2
  • No-go
  • Response conflict
  • Stimulus modality


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