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Relative Changes from Prior Reward Contingencies Can Constrain Brain Correlates of Outcome Monitoring

Mushtaq, Faisal and Stoet, Gijsbert and Bland, Amy Rachel and Schaefer, Alexandre (2013) Relative Changes from Prior Reward Contingencies Can Constrain Brain Correlates of Outcome Monitoring. PLoS ONE, 8 (6). e66350-e66350.

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Abstract

It is well-known that the affective value of an environment can be relative to whether it reflects an improvement or a worsening from a previous state. A potential explanation for this phenomenon suggests that relative changes from previous reward contingencies can constrain how brain monitoring systems form predictions about future events. In support of this idea, we found that changes per se relative to previous states of learned reward contingencies modulated the Feedback-Related Negativity (FRN), a human brain potential known to index discrepancies between predictions and affective outcomes. Specifically, we observed that environments with a 50% reward probability yielded different FRN patterns according to whether they reflected an improvement or a worsening from a previous environment. Further, we also found that this pattern of results was driven mainly by variations in the amplitude of ERPs to positive outcomes. Overall, these results suggest that relative changes in reward probability from previous learned environments can constrain how neural systems of outcome monitoring formulate predictions about the likelihood of future rewards and nonrewards.

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