Reward contingencies and the recalibration of task monitoring and reward systems: A high-density electrical mapping study

K. P. Morie, P. De Sanctis, J. J. Foxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Task execution almost always occurs in the context of reward-seeking or punishment-avoiding behavior. As such, ongoing task-monitoring systems are influenced by reward anticipation systems. In turn, when a task has been executed either successfully or unsuccessfully, future iterations of that task will be re-titrated on the basis of the task outcome. Here, we examined the neural underpinnings of the task-monitoring and reward-evaluation systems to better understand how they govern reward-seeking behavior. Twenty-three healthy adult participants performed a task where they accrued points that equated to real world value (gift cards) by responding as rapidly as possible within an allotted timeframe, while success rate was titrated online by changing the duration of the timeframe dependent on participant performance. Informative cues initiated each trial, indicating the probability of potential reward or loss (four levels from very low to very high). We manipulated feedback by first informing participants of task success/failure, after which a second feedback signal indicated actual magnitude of reward/loss. High-density electroencephalography (EEG) recordings allowed for examination of event-related potentials (ERPs) to the informative cues and in turn, to both feedback signals. Distinct ERP components associated with reward cues, task-preparatory and task-monitoring processes, and reward feedback processes were identified. Unsurprisingly, participants displayed increased ERP amplitudes associated with task-preparatory processes following cues that predicted higher chances of reward. They also rapidly updated reward and loss prediction information dependent on task performance after the first feedback signal. Finally, upon reward receipt, initial reward probability was no longer taken into account. Rather, ERP measures suggested that only the magnitude of actual reward or loss was now processed. Reward and task-monitoring processes are clearly dissociable, but interact across very fast timescales to update reward predictions as information about task success or failure is accrued. Careful delineation of these processes will be useful in future investigations in clinical groups where such processes are suspected of having gone awry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-117
Number of pages18
StatePublished - Jul 25 2014


  • EEG
  • ERP
  • Motivation
  • Punishment
  • Reward
  • Task monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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