Multiple Levels of Control Processes for Wisconsin Card Sorts: An Observational Study
We explored short-term behavioral plasticity on the Modified Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (M-WCST) by deriving novel error metrics by stratifying traditional set loss and perseverative errors. Separating the rule set and the response set allowed for the measurement of performance across four trial types, crossing rule set (i.e., maintain vs. switch) and response demand (i.e., repeat vs. alternate). Critically, these four trial types can be grouped based on trial-wise feedback on t - 1 trials. Rewarded (correct) maintain t - 1 trials should lead to error enhancement when the response demands shift from repeat to alternate. In contrast, punished (incorrect) t - 1 trials should lead to error suppression when the response demands shift from repeat to alternate. The results supported the error suppression prediction: An error suppression effect (ESE) was observed across numerous patient samples. Exploratory analyses show that the ESE did not share substantial portions of variance with traditional neuropsychological measures of executive functioning. They further point into the direction that striatal or limbic circuit neuropathology may be associated with enhanced ESE. These data suggest that punishment of the recently executed response induces behavioral avoidance, which is detectable as the ESE on the WCST. The assessment of the ESE might provide an index of response-related avoidance learning on the WCST.