The present study examined the role of the rostral cingulate zone (RCZ) in feedback processing, and especially focused on effects of modality of the feedback stimulus and remedial action. Participants performed a time-estimation task in which they had to estimate a 1-second interval. After the estimation participants received verbal (correct/false) or facial (fearful face/happy face) feedback. Percentage of positive and negative feedback was kept at 50% by dynamically adjusting the interval in which estimations were labeled correct. Contrary to predictions of the reinforcement learning theory, which predicts more RCZ activation when the outcome of behavior is worse than expected, we found that the RCZ was more active after positive feedback than after negative feedback, independent of the modality of the feedback stimulus. More in line with the suggested role of the RCZ in reinforcement learning was the finding that the RCZ was more active after negative feedback that was followed by a correct adjustment as compared to negative feedback followed by an incorrect adjustment. Both findings can be explained in terms of the RCZ being involved in facilitating remedial action as opposed to the suggested signaling function (outcome is worse than expected) proposed by the reinforcement learning theory.

FMRI, Faces, Feedback, Reinforcement learning, Rostral cingulate zone,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van der Veen, F.M, Röder, C.H, Mies, G.W, van der Lugt, A, & Smits, M. (2011). Remedial action and feedback processing in a time-estimation task: Evidence for a role of the rostral cingulate zone in behavioral adjustments without learning. NeuroImage, 54(1), 447–454. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.08.018