Publication Details

Lole, L., Gonsalvez, C. J., Barry, R. J. & De Blasio, F. M. (2013). Can event-related potentials serve as neural markers for wins, losses, and near-wins in a gambling task? A principal components analysis. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 89 (3), 390-398.


Originally, the feedback related negativity (FRN) event-related potential (ERP) component was considered to be a robust neural correlate of non-reward/punishment processing, with greater negative deflections observed following unfavourable outcomes. More recently, it has been suggested that this component is better conceptualised as a positive deflection following rewarding outcomes. The current study sought to elucidate the nature of the FRN, as well as another component associated with incentive-value processing, the P3b, through application of a spatiotemporal principal components analysis (PCA). Seventeen healthy controls played a computer electronic gaming machine (EGM) task and received feedback on credits won or lost on each trial, and ERPs were recorded. The distribution of reward/non-reward outcomes closely matched that of a real EGM, with frequent losses, and infrequent wins and near-wins. The PCA revealed that feedback elicited both a frontally maximal negative deflection to losses, and a positive deflection to wins (which was also sensitive to reward magnitude), implying that the neural generator/s of the FRN are differentially activated following these outcomes. As expected, greater P3b amplitudes were found for wins compared to losses. Interestingly, near-wins elicited significantly smaller FRN amplitudes than losses (with no differences in P3b amplitude), and may contribute to the maintenance of gambling behaviours on EGMs. The results of the current study are integrated into a response profile of healthy controls to outcomes of varying incentive value. This may provide a foundation for the future examination of individuals who exhibit abnormalities in reward/punishment processing, such as problem gamblers.

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