Effective goal-directed behavior relies on a network of regions including anterior cingulate cortex and ventral striatum to learn from negative outcomes in order to improve performance. We employed fMRI to determine if this frontal–striatal system is also involved in instances of behavior that do not presume negative circumstances. Participants performed a visual target/nontarget search game in which they could optionally abort a trial to avoid errors or receive extra reward for highly confident responses. Anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex were equally activated for error avoidance and high reward trials but were not active on error trials, demonstrating their primary involvement in self-initiated behavioral adjustment and not error detection or prediction. In contrast, the insula and the ventral striatum were responsive to the high reward trials. Differential activation patterns across conditions for the nucleus accumbens, insula, and prefrontal cortex suggest distinct roles for these structures in the control of reward-related behavior.

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