Distinct Neural Signatures of Outcome Monitoring After Selection and Execution Errors


Losing a point in tennis could result from poor shot selection or faulty stroke execution. To explore how the brain responds to these different types of errors, we examined feedback-locked EEG activity while participants completed a modified version of a standard three-armed bandit probabilistic reward task. Our task framed unrewarded outcomes as the result of either errors of selection or errors of execution. We examined whether amplitude of a medial frontal negativity (the feedback-related negativity [FRN]) was sensitive to the different forms of error attribution. Consistent with previous reports, selection errors elicited a large FRN relative to rewards, and amplitude of this signal correlated with behavioral adjustment after these errors. A different pattern was observed in response to execution errors. These outcomes produced a larger FRN, a frontocentral attenuation in activity preceding this component, and a subsequent enhanced error positivity in parietal sites. Notably, the only correlations with behavioral adjustment were with the early frontocentral attenuation and amplitude of the parietal signal; FRN differences between execution errors and rewarded trials did not correlate with subsequent changes in behavior. Our findings highlight distinct neural correlates of selection and execution error processing, providing insight into how the brain responds to the different classes of error that determine future action.

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
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