The good, the bad and the neutral: Electrophysiological responses to feedback stimuli

Department of Psychology University of Victoria, PO Box 3050 STN CSC Victoria, Canada BC V8W 3P5. <>
Brain Research (Impact Factor: 2.84). 09/2006; 1105(1):93-101. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainres.2005.12.015
Source: PubMed


The feedback error-related negativity (fERN) is a component of the event-related brain potential elicited in gambling and trial-and-error learning tasks by negative, but not positive, feedback stimuli. Here, we present the results of a series of five experiments that investigated the response of the fERN to the presentation of neutral feedback stimuli. In three of the experiments, the neutral feedback stimuli indicated that the participants did not receive a potential reward nor incur a potential penalty (i.e., they received nothing); and in the remaining two experiments, the neutral feedback stimuli did not convey any meaningful information (i.e., the participants were either successful or unsuccessful on those trials, but the feedback stimuli were uninformative about the outcomes). Across the five experiments, we found that neutral feedback stimuli elicited a fERN about as large as that elicited by negative feedback stimuli. This result is consistent with recent proposals that the evaluative system that produces the fERN classifies outcomes into two categories: those outcomes that indicate that a goal has been satisfied and those that do not.

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    • "). However, recent findings indicate that positive feedback might also play a crucial role in behavioral adaptation and that it elicits a feedback positivity in the ERP (e.g., Eppinger et al., 2008; Holroyd et al., 2008; Potts et al., 2006). An alternative view proposes that the ACC is constantly predicting the likely outcomes of actions and signaling unexpected violations of these predictions (Alexander & Brown, 2011). "
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    ABSTRACT: Developmental studies indicate that children rely more on external feedback than adults. Some of these studies claim that they additionally show higher sensitivity toward positive feedback, while others find they preferably use negative feedback for learning. However, these studies typically did not disentangle feedback valence and expectancy, which might contribute to the controversial results. The present study aimed at examining the neurophysiological correlates of feedback processing in children (8-10 years) and adolescents (12-14 years) in a time estimation paradigm that allows separating the contribution of valence and expectancy. Our results show that in the feedback-related negativity (FRN), an event-related potential (ERP) reflecting the fast initial processing of feedback stimuli, children and adolescents did not differentiate between unexpected positive and negative feedback. Thus, they did not show higher sensitivity to positive feedback. The FRN did also not differentiate between expected and unexpected feedback, as found for adults. In contrast, in a later processing stage mirrored in the P300 component of the ERP, children and adolescents processed the feedback’s unexpectedness. Interestingly, adolescents with better behavioral adaptation (high-performers) also had a more frontal P300 expectancy effect. Thus, the recruitment of additional frontal brain regions might lead to better learning from feedback in adolescents.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2016 · Neuropsychologia
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    • "(1) In our primary analysis, we quantified the FRN as a peak-to-peak difference in the P2–N2 complex (Frank et al., 2005; Holroyd et al., 2006; Moser and Simons, 2009) in order to isolate ERPs related to reward and punishment on outcomes at each trial. "
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    ABSTRACT: Substantial evidence indicates that decision outcomes are typically evaluated relative to expectations learned from relatively long sequences of previous outcomes. This mechanism is thought to play a key role in general learning and adaptation processes but relatively little is known about the determinants of outcome evaluation when the capacity to learn from series of prior events is difficult or impossible. To investigate this issue, we examined how the feedback related negativity (FRN) is modulated by information briefly presented before outcome evaluation. The FRN is a brain potential time-locked to the delivery of feedback and it is widely thought to be sensitive to prior expectations. We conducted a multi-trial gambling task in which outcomes at each trial were fully randomised to minimise the capacity to learn from long sequences of prior outcomes. Event-related potentials for outcomes (Win/Loss) in the current trial (Outcomet) were separated according to the type of outcomes that occurred in the preceding two trials (Outcomet-1 and Outcomet-2). We found that FRN voltage was more positive during the processing of win feedback when it was preceded by wins at Outcomet-1 compared to win feedback preceded by losses at Outcomet-1. However, no influence of preceding outcomes was found on FRN activity relative to the processing of loss feedback. We also found no effects of Outcomet-2 on FRN amplitude relative to current feedback. Additional analyses indicated that this effect was largest for trials in which participants selected a decision different to the gamble chosen in the previous trial. These findings are inconsistent with models that solely relate the FRN to prediction error computation. Instead, our results suggest that if stable predictions about future events are weak or non-existent, then outcome processing can be determined by affective systems. More specifically, our results indicate that the FRN is likely to reflect the activity of positive affective systems in these contexts. Importantly, our findings indicate that a multifactorial explanation of the nature of the FRN is necessary and such an account must incorporate affective and motivational factors in outcome processing.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · NeuroImage
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    • "FRN amplitudes were determined separately for each condition and each participant at electrode FCz by , first , determining the ampli - tude of the most negative peak between 200 and 400 ms after feed - back onset and , then , subtracting the amplitude of the most positive peak between 150 ms after feedback onset and the previ - ously determined negative peak ( Ferdinand et al . , 2012 ; Holroyd , Hajcak , & Larsen , 2006 ) . If there was no negative peak in the 200 – 400 ms time window , the FRN amplitude was taken as 0 mV . "
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    ABSTRACT: For adaptive decision-making it is important to utilize only relevant, valid and to ignore irrelevant feedback. The present study investigated how feedback processing in decision-making is impaired when relevant feedback is combined with irrelevant and potentially invalid feedback. We analyzed two electrophysiological markers of feedback processing, the feedback-related negativity (FRN) and the P300, in a simple decision-making task, in which participants processed feedback stimuli consisting of relevant and irrelevant feedback provided by the color and meaning of a Stroop stimulus. We found that invalid, irrelevant feedback not only impaired learning, it also altered the amplitude of the P300 to relevant feedback, suggesting an interfering effect of irrelevant feedback on the processing of relevant feedback. In contrast, no such effect on the FRN was obtained. These results indicate that detrimental effects of invalid, irrelevant feedback result from failures of controlled feedback processing. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Brain and Cognition
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