Motivated to win: Relationship between anticipatory and outcome reward-related neural activity

Narun Pornpattananangkul*, Robin Nusslock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Reward-processing involves two temporal stages characterized by two distinct neural processes: reward-anticipation and reward-outcome. Intriguingly, very little research has examined the relationship between neural processes involved in reward-anticipation and reward-outcome. To investigate this, one needs to consider the heterogeneity of reward-processing within each stage. To identify different stages of reward processing, we adapted a reward time-estimation task. While EEG data were recorded, participants were instructed to button-press 3.5 s after the onset of an Anticipation-Cue and received monetary reward for good time-estimation on the Reward trials, but not on No-Reward trials. We first separated reward-anticipation into event related potentials (ERPs) occurring at three sub-stages: reward/no-reward cue-evaluation, motor-preparation and feedback-anticipation. During reward/no-reward cue-evaluation, the Reward-Anticipation Cue led to a smaller N2 and larger P3. During motor-preparation, we report, for the first time, that the Reward-Anticipation Cue enhanced the Readiness Potential (RP), starting approximately 1 s before movement. At the subsequent feedback-anticipation stage, the Reward-Anticipation Cue elevated the Stimulus-Preceding Negativity (SPN). We also separated reward-outcome ERPs into different components occurring at different time-windows: the Feedback-Related Negativity (FRN), Feedback-P3 (FB-P3) and Late-Positive Potentials (LPP). Lastly, we examined the relationship between reward-anticipation and reward-outcome ERPs. We report that individual-differences in specific reward-anticipation ERPs uniquely predicted specific reward-outcome ERPs. In particular, the reward-anticipation Early-RP (1-.8 s before movement) predicted early reward-outcome ERPs (FRN and FB-P3), whereas, the reward-anticipation SPN most strongly predicted a later reward-outcome ERP (LPP). Results have important implications for understanding the nature of the relationship between reward-anticipation and reward-outcome neural-processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-40
Number of pages20
JournalBrain and cognition
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Feedback-related negativity
  • Late-positive potential
  • Readiness potential
  • Reward anticipation
  • Reward outcome
  • Stimulus preceding negativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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