Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
This study offers a neurophysiological examination of the relationship between feedback processing and learning. A two-choice paired-associate learning task borrowed and modified from Tricomi and Fiez [Tricomi, E., & Fiez, J. A. Feedback signals in the caudate reflect goal achievement on a declarative memory task. Neuroimage, 41, 1154–1167, 2008] was employed to examine the mediofrontal electrophysiological brain activity associated with the processing of performance feedback in a learning task and to elucidate the extent to which the processing of the initial informative feedback is related to learning outcomes. Twenty participants were tasked with learning to correctly pair 60 novel objects with their names by choosing on a trial-by-trial basis between two possible names and receiving feedback about the accuracy of their selection. The novel objects were presented in three blocks of trials (rounds), each of which presented the same set of 60 objects once. The rounds allowed the separation of the initial informative feedback in Round 1 from the other feedback stimuli in Rounds 2 and 3. The results indicated differences in the processing of initial informative and proceeding feedback stimuli. More specifically, the difference appeared to be driven by the change in the processing of positive feedback. Moreover, very first positive feedback provided in association with a particular new object was found associated with learning outcomes. The results imply that signs of successful and unsuccessful learning may be detected as early as the initial positive feedback provided in a learning task. The results suggest that the process giving rise to the feedback-related negativity is sensitive to the utility of the feedback and that the processing of the first informative positive feedback is associated with learning outcomes.