Jan R. Wessel, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology
Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Contact Information

Primary Office
E114 Seashore Hall
11 Seashore Hall E
Iowa City, IA 52242


PhD, Cognitive Neurology, Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research
BSc & MSc, Psychology, University of Cologne
Postdoctoral Fellow, Cognitive Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience

Center, Program and Institute Affiliations

Aging Mind and Brain Initiative

Research Summary

Our research examines the neural mechanisms that underlie flexible behavior and cognition. We are interested in how humans carry out and maintain goal-directed behaviors; specifically, how the cognitive system resolves challenges to this goal. Common examples of such challenges are unexpected events and action errors. We investigate the dynamic interplay between brain networks that subserve: - The monitoring of the external and internal environment. - The evaluation of action outcomes. - The adaptation of ongoing behavior and cognition in the short and long term. We use a variety of methods to study these questions, including (but not limited to): - Scalp-recorded Electroencephalography (EEG). - Invasive recordings of brain activity (ECoG and DBS-LFP recordings). - Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). - Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). - Computational modeling. - Autonomic psychophysiology. Finally, we study how pathological processes, brain lesions, and (ab)normal aging affect these networks.


Wessel, J. R. (2018). An adaptive orienting theory of error processing. Psychophysiology, 55(3). PMID: 29226960.

Dutra, I. C., Waller, D. A. & Wessel, J. R. (2018). Perceptual Surprise Improves Action Stopping by Nonselectively Suppressing Motor Activity via a Neural Mechanism for Motor Inhibition. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 38(6), 1482-1492. PMID: 29305533.

Kelley, R., Flouty, O., Emmons, E. B., Kim, Y., Kingyon, J., Wessel, J. R., Oya, H., Greenlee, J. D. & Narayanan, N. S. (2018). A human prefrontal-subthalamic circuit for cognitive control. Brain : a journal of neurology, 141(1), 205-216. PMID: 29190362.

Wagner, J., Wessel, J. R., Ghahremani, A. & Aron, A. R. (2018). Establishing a Right Frontal Beta Signature for Stopping Action in Scalp EEG: Implications for Testing Inhibitory Control in Other Task Contexts. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 30(1), 107-118. PMID: 28880766.

Ghahremani, A., Wessel, J. R., Udupa, K., Neagu, B., Zhuang, P., Saha, U., Kalia, S. K., Hodaie, M., Lozano, A. M., Aron, A. R. & Chen, R. (2018). Stopping and slowing manual and spoken responses: Similar oscillatory signatures recorded from the subthalamic nucleus. Brain and language, 176, 1-10. PMID: 29125966.

Wessel, J. R. (2017). Perceptual surprise aides inhibitory motor control. Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance, 43(9), 1585-1593. PMID: 28557496.

Wessel, J. R. (2017). Prepotent motor activity and inhibitory control demands in different variants of the go/no-go paradigm. Psychophysiology. DOI: 10.1111/psyp.12871.

Wessel, J. R., Aron, A. R. (2017). On the Globality of Motor Suppression: Unexpected Events and Their Influence on Behavior and Cognition. Neuron, 93(2), 259-280. PMID: 28103476.

Wessel, J. R., Ghahremani, A., Udupa, K., Saha, U., Kalia, S. K., Hodaie, M., Lozano, A. M., Aron, A. R. & Chen, R. (2016). Stop-related subthalamic beta activity indexes global motor suppression in Parkinson's disease. Movement disorders : official journal of the Movement Disorder Society, 31(12), 1846-1853. PMID: 27474845.

Wessel, J. R. (2016). A Neural Mechanism for Surprise-related Interruptions of Visuospatial Working Memory. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). PMID: 27909006.

Wessel, J. R., Jenkinson, N., Brittain, J. S., Voets, S. H., Aziz, T. Z. & Aron, A. R. (2016). Surprise disrupts cognition via a fronto-basal ganglia suppressive mechanism. Nature communications, 7, 11195. PMID: 27088156.

Wessel, J. R. (2016). Testing Multiple Psychological Processes for Common Neural Mechanisms Using EEG and Independent Component Analysis. Brain topography. PMID: 26956562.

Wessel, J. R., Ullsperger, M., Obrig, H., Villringer, A., Quinque, E., Schroeter, M. L., Bretschneider, K. J., Arelin, K., Roggenhofer, E., Frisch, S. & Klein, T. A. (2015). Neural synchrony indexes impaired motor slowing after errors and novelty following white matter damage. Neurobiology of aging. PMID: 26563990.

Wessel, J. R., Aron, A. R. (2015). It's not too late: the onset of the frontocentral P3 indexes successful response inhibition in the stop-signal paradigm. Psychophysiology, 52(4), 472-80. PMID: 25348645.

Wessel, J. R., Tonnesen, A. L. & Aron, A. R. (2015). Stimulus devaluation induced by action stopping is greater for explicit value representations. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1640. PMID: 26579025.

Wessel, J. R., Aron, A. R. (2014). Inhibitory motor control based on complex stopping goals relies on the same brain network as simple stopping. NeuroImage, 103, 225-34. PMID: 25270603.

Wessel, J. R., O'Doherty, J. P., Berkebile, M. M., Linderman, D. & Aron, A. R. (2014). Stimulus devaluation induced by stopping action. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 143(6), 2316-29. PMID: 25313953.

Wessel, J. R. (2014). Performance monitoring in realistic environments: can translating neuroscientific insights augment real-world behavioral adaptation?. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 34(27), 8934-6. PMID: 24990914.

Wessel, J. R., Klein, T. A., Ott, D. V. & Ullsperger, M. (2014). Lesions to the prefrontal performance-monitoring network disrupt neural processing and adaptive behaviors after both errors and novelty. Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior, 50, 45-54. PMID: 24139890.

Wessel, J. R., Conner, C. R., Aron, A. R. & Tandon, N. (2013). Chronometric electrical stimulation of right inferior frontal cortex increases motor braking. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33(50), 19611-9. PMID: 24336725.

Wessel, J. R., Aron, A. R. (2013). Unexpected events induce motor slowing via a brain mechanism for action-stopping with global suppressive effects. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33(47), 18481-91. PMID: 24259571.

Greenhouse, I., Wessel, J. R. (2013). EEG signatures associated with stopping are sensitive to preparation. Psychophysiology, 50(9), 900-8. PMID: 23763667.

Wessel, J. R., Reynoso, H. S. & Aron, A. R. (2013). Saccade suppression exerts global effects on the motor system. Journal of neurophysiology, 110(4), 883-90. PMID: 23699058.

Itthipuripat, S., Wessel, J. R. & Aron, A. R. (2013). Frontal theta is a signature of successful working memory manipulation. Experimental brain research, 224(2), 255-62. PMID: 23109082.

Wessel, J. R. (2012). From "Neural correlates of consciousness" to "Neural causes of consciousness": A commentary on "Consciousness, biology and quantum hypotheses", by Bernard J. Baars and David E. Edelman. Physics of life reviews, 9(3), 299-300; discussion 306-7. PMID: 22831962.

Wessel, J. R., Danielmeier, C., Morton, J. B. & Ullsperger, M. (2012). Surprise and error: common neuronal architecture for the processing of errors and novelty. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32(22), 7528-37. PMID: 22649231.

Wessel, J. R., Haider, H. & Rose, M. (2012). The transition from implicit to explicit representations in incidental learning situations: more evidence from high-frequency EEG coupling. Experimental brain research, 217(1), 153-62. PMID: 22186962.

Wessel, J. R. (2012). Error awareness and the error-related negativity: evaluating the first decade of evidence. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 6, 88. PMID: 22529791.

Wessel, J. R., Danielmeier, C. & Ullsperger, M. (2011). Error awareness revisited: accumulation of multimodal evidence from central and autonomic nervous systems. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 23(10), 3021-36. PMID: 21268673.

Wessel, J. R., Ullsperger, M. (2011). Selection of independent components representing event-related brain potentials: a data-driven approach for greater objectivity. NeuroImage, 54(3), 2105-15. PMID: 20965258.

Ullsperger, M., Harsay, H. A., Wessel, J. R. & Ridderinkhof, K. R. (2010). Conscious perception of errors and its relation to the anterior insula. Brain structure & function, 214(5-6), 629-43. PMID: 20512371.

Danielmeier, C., Wessel, J. R., Steinhauser, M. & Ullsperger, M. (2009). Modulation of the error-related negativity by response conflict. Psychophysiology, 46(6), 1288-98. PMID: 19572907.