Regulating task-monitoring systems in response to variable reward contingencies and outcomes in cocaine addicts

Kristen P. Morie, Pierfilippo De Sanctis, Hugh Garavan, John J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: We investigated anticipatory and consummatory reward processing in cocaine addiction. In addition, we set out to assess whether task-monitoring systems were appropriately recalibrated in light of variable reward schedules. We also examined neural measures of task-monitoring and reward processing as a function of hedonic tone, since anhedonia is a vulnerability marker for addiction that is obviously germane in the context of reward processing. Method: High-density event-related potentials were recorded while participants performed a speeded response task that systematically varied anticipated probabilities of reward receipt. The paradigm dissociated feedback regarding task success (or failure) from feedback regarding the value of reward (or loss), so that task-monitoring and reward processing could be examined in partial isolation. Twenty-three active cocaine abusers and 23 age-matched healthy controls participated. Results: Cocaine abusers showed amplified anticipatory responses to reward predictive cues, but crucially, these responses were not as strongly modulated by reward probability as in controls. Cocaine users also showed blunted responses to feedback about task success or failure and did not use this information to update predictions about reward. In turn, they showed clearly blunted responses to reward feedback. In controls and users, measures of anhedonia were associated with reward motivation. In cocaine users, anhedonia was also associated with diminished monitoring and reward feedback responses. Conclusion: Findings imply that reward anticipation and monitoring deficiencies in addiction are associated with increased responsiveness to reward cues but impaired ability to predict reward in light of task contingencies, compounded by deficits in responding to actual reward outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1105-1118
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Addiction
  • Anhedonia
  • EEG
  • ERP
  • Motivation
  • Reward
  • Substance abuse
  • Task monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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