Implicit predictions of future rewards and their electrophysiological correlates

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Abstract

Information that is motivationally relevant to an organism’s survival demands preferential attention. Affective mechanisms facilitate attentional shifts and potentiate action to allow organisms to respond appropriately to motivationally relevant information. Previous work has demonstrated that the late-positive potential (LPP) is an event-related potential elicited by inherently emotional stimuli. For example, the LPP typically is evoked by images of weapons or erotica. The present study investigates stimuli that are not inherently emotional, but that implicitly (without participants’ awareness) predict future monetary gains and losses. Results indicate that, relative to non-predictive cues, these predictive cues elicited frontally distributed positive potential. These results suggest that prediction of future rewards evokes neural responses that are similar to those evoked by inherently emotional stimuli. Results also indicate that monetary gains and losses elicit a frontally distributed LPP.

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