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Punishing an error improves learning: the influence of punishment magnitude on error-related neural activity and subsequent learning

Hester, Robert, Murphy, Kevin, Brown, Felicity L. and Skilleter, Ashley J. 2010. Punishing an error improves learning: the influence of punishment magnitude on error-related neural activity and subsequent learning. The Journal of Neuroscience 30 (46) , pp. 15600-15607. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2565-10.2010

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Abstract

Punishing an error to shape subsequent performance is a major tenet of individual and societal level behavioral interventions. Recent work examining error-related neural activity has identified that the magnitude of activity in the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) is predictive of learning from an error, whereby greater activity in this region predicts adaptive changes in future cognitive performance. It remains unclear how punishment influences error-related neural mechanisms to effect behavior change, particularly in key regions such as pMFC, which previous work has demonstrated to be insensitive to punishment. Using an associative learning task that provided monetary reward and punishment for recall performance, we observed that when recall errors were categorized by subsequent performance—whether the failure to accurately recall a number–location association was corrected at the next presentation of the same trial—the magnitude of error-related pMFC activity predicted future correction. However, the pMFC region was insensitive to the magnitude of punishment an error received and it was the left insula cortex that predicted learning from the most aversive outcomes. These findings add further evidence to the hypothesis that error-related pMFC activity may reflect more than a prediction error in representing the value of an outcome. The novel role identified here for the insular cortex in learning from punishment appears particularly compelling for our understanding of psychiatric and neurologic conditions that feature both insular cortex dysfunction and a diminished capacity for learning from negative feedback or punishment.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Psychology
Physics and Astronomy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Publisher: Society for Neuroscience
ISSN: 0270-6474
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 08 May 2019 14:04
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/26737

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