Applying electrophysiological methods to investigate the brain mechanisms involved in the processing of rewards, punishments, and performance feedback




Baker, Travis Edward

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



To elucidate the neural generator of the feedback error-related negativity (fERN), which is an event-related brain potential (ERP) component elecited following negative feedback, this study utilized a converging method approach by applying electrophysiological methods to replicate a reward task modeled after a functional magnetic resonance imaging, single-cell recording, and primate studies that activated the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) with negative feedback. This study involved two ERP experiments. The first involved a replication of the reward task and the second experiment involved a modification of the reward task that separated the valence and instructional aspects of the feedback stimulus. Experiment 1 demonstrated that methodological issues can arise when using ERP methods to replicate a paradigm used in other neuroimaging techniques. Experiment 2 was conducted to control for these methodological issues. For experiment 2, the reward condition following a switch movement elicited a large N2 component, which consequently overlapped with the fERN. I concluded that if participants are incorrectly expecting negative feedback after switch trials, the `unexpected' positive feedback following the switch trails violated their expectation, thereby eliciting a large N2, and not a fERN. This hypothesis will be tested in several follow up experiments by modifying the paradigm in Experiment 2 so that all the possible combinations of condition mappings can be applied.



reward and punishment