Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to probe the effects of feedback in a hypothesis testing (HT) paradigm. Thirteen college students serially tested hypotheses concerning a hidden rule by judging its presence or absence in triplets of digits and revised them on the basis of an exogenous performance feedback. ERPs time-locked to performance feedback were then examined. The results showed differences between responses to positive and negative feedback at all cortical sites. Negative feedback, indicating incorrect performance, was associated to a negative deflection preceding a P300-like wave. Spatiotemporal principal component analysis (PCA) showed the interplay between early frontal components and later central and posterior ones. Lateralization of activity was selectively detectable at frontal sites, with a left frontal dominance for both positive and negative feedback. These results are discussed in terms of a proposed computational model of trial-to-trial feedback in HT in which the cognitive and emotive aspects of feedback are explicitly linked to putative mediating brain mechanisms. The properties of different feedback types and feedback-related deficits in depression are also discussed.