Frequency-dependent representation of reinforcement-related information in the human medial and lateral prefrontal cortex

Elliot H. Smith, Garrett P. Banks, Charles B. Mikell, Syndey S. Cash, Shaun R. Patel, Emad N. Eskandar, Sameer A. Sheth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The feedback-related negativity (FRN) is a commonly observed potential in scalp electroencephalography (EEG) studies related to the valence of feedback about a subject’s performance. This potential classically manifests as a negative deflection in medial frontocentral EEG contacts following negative feedback. Recent work has shown prominence of theta power in the spectral composition of the FRN, placing it within the larger class of “frontal midline theta” cognitive control signals. Although the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) is thought to be the cortical generator of the FRN, conclusive data regarding its origin and propagation are lacking. Here we examine intracranial electrophysiology from the human medial and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) to better understand the anatomical localiza- tion and communication patterns of the FRN. We show that the FRN is evident in both low- and high-frequency local field potentials (LFPs) recorded on electrocorticography. The FRN is larger in medial compared with lateral PFC, and coupling between theta band phase and high-frequency LFP power is also greater in medial PFC. Using Granger causality and conditional mutual information analyses, we provide evidence that feedback-related information propagates from medial to lateral PFC, and that this information transfer oscillates with theta-range periodicity. These results provide evidence for the dACC as the cortical source of the FRN, provide insight into the local computation of frontal midline theta, and have implications for reinforcement learning models of cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15827-15836
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number48
StatePublished - Dec 2 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrocorticography
  • Feedback-related negativity
  • Frontal midline theta
  • Information representation
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Reinforcement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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