Our aim was to propose a tool for tackle work-related stress (WRS) among Italian Police Special Force officers (SF). Event-related potential associated with error processing (error-related negativity – ERN) is considered a marker of internal and external feedback for processing conflict information. 290 male SF were investigated and selected in two groups (stress group – S, no stress group – NS) based on psychological assessment, evaluation of WRS with questionnaires, behavioral and clinical outcomes throughout 4 years. ERN during a modified Eriksen Flanker task preceded by subliminal neutral and threat scenes, were measured in two subgroups (40 S; 40 NS). ERN mean latency was 27 ms for S and 29 ms for NS. For error trials, the ERN was more negative for S than NS (p < 0,0001) and for S, for errors preceded by threat than neutral scenes (p < 0,0001, p < 0,02 on frontal derivations). These data supported the response-conflict view of ERN. The observed relationship between high level of WRS and ERN amplitude suggested the excessive activation of anterior cingulated cortex in S than in NS. For the first time, ERN was employed in SF to verify predictions regarding the control behavior in situations inducing high level of WRS. ERN evaluation could be helpful to design suitable training tools to increase operational efficiency based on individual WRS.
- Police, stress, ERN