Abstract

To elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying the development of perceptual expertise, we recorded ERPs while participants performed a categorization task. We found that as participants learned to discriminate computer generated “blob” stimuli, feedback modulated the amplitude of the error-related negativity (ERN)—an ERP component thought to reflect error evaluation within medial–frontal cortex. As participants improved at the categorization task, we also observed an increase in amplitude of an ERP component associated with object recognition (the N250). The increase in N250 amplitude preceded an increase in amplitude of an ERN component associated with internal error evaluation (the response ERN). Importantly, these electroencephalographic changes were not observed for participants who failed to improve on the categorization task. Our results suggest that the acquisition of perceptual expertise relies on interactions between the posterior perceptual system and the reinforcement learning system involving medial–frontal cortex.

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