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The feedback-related negativity (FRN) revisited: New insights into the localization, meaning and network organization

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Hauser Tobias U., Iannaccone Reto, Stämpfli Philipp, Drechsler Renate, Brandeis Daniel, Walitza Susanne, Brem Silvia,
Project Neuroimaging of cognitive flexibility and action monitoring in paediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal NeuroImage
Volume (Issue) 84
Page(s) 159 - 168
Title of proceedings NeuroImage
DOI 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.08.028


Changes in response contingencies require adjusting ones assumptions about outcomes of behaviors. Such adaptation processes are driven by reward prediction error (RPE) signals which reflect the inadequacy of expectations. Signals resembling RPEs are known to be encoded by mesencephalic dopamine neurons projecting to the striatum and frontal regions. Although regions that process RPEs, such as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), have been identified, only indirect evidence links timing and network organization of RPE processing in humans. In electroencephalography (EEG), which is well known for its high temporal resolution, the feedback-related negativity (FRN) has been suggested to reflect RPE processing. Recent studies, however, suggested that the FRN might reflect surprise, which would correspond to the absolute, rather than the signed RPE signals. Furthermore, the localization of the FRN remains a matter of debate.In this simultaneous EEG-functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we localized the FRN directly using the superior spatial resolution of fMRI without relying on any spatial constraint or other assumption. Using two different single-trial approaches, we consistently found a cluster within the dACC. One analysis revealed additional activations of the salience network. Furthermore, we evaluated the effect of signed RPEs and surprise signals on the FRN amplitude. We considered that both signals are usually correlated and found that only surprise signals modulate the FRN amplitude. Last, we explored the pathway of RPE signals using dynamic causal modeling (DCM). We found that the surprise signals are directly projected to the source region of the FRN. This finding contradicts earlier theories about the network organization of the FRN, but is in line with a recent theory stating that dopamine neurons also encode surprise-like saliency signals.Our findings crucially advance the understanding of the FRN. We found compelling evidence that the FRN originates from the dACC. Furthermore, we clarified the functional role of the FRN, and determined the role of the dACC within the RPE network. These findings should enable us to study the processing of surprise and adjustment signals in the dACC in healthy and also in psychiatric patients. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.