Abstract

Negative feedback after an action in a cognitive task can lead to devaluing that action on future trials as well as to more cautious responding when encountering that same choice again. These phenomena have been explored in the past by reinforcement learning theories and cognitive control accounts, respectively. Yet, how cognitive control interacts with value updating to give rise to adequate adaptations under uncertainty is less clear. In this fMRI study, we investigated cognitive control-based behavioral adjustments during a probabilistic reinforcement learning task and studied their influence on performance in a later test phase in which the learned value of items is tested. We provide support for the idea that functionally relevant and memory-reliant behavioral adjustments in the form of post-error slowing during reinforcement learning are associated with test performance. Adjusting response speed after negative feedback was correlated with BOLD activity in right inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral middle occipital cortex during the event of receiving the feedback. Bilateral middle occipital cortex activity overlapped partly with activity reflecting feedback deviance from expectations as measured by unsigned prediction error. These results suggest that cognitive control and feature processing cortical regions interact to implement feedback-congruent adaptations beneficial to learning.

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