Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Effects of Task-Relevant Incentives on the Electrophysiological Correlates of Error Processing in Major Depressive Disorder

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Effects of Task-Relevant Incentives on the Electrophysiological Correlates of Error Processing in Major Depressive Disorder

Article excerpt

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with action-monitoring dysfunction-particularly, disrupted error processing. Whether such dysregulation is further modulated by task incentives is largely unknown. The goal of this study was to investigate possible dysfunctions in error processing in MDD as a function of varying task incentives and clinical profile. To this end, we recorded the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe) in 18 MDD participants and 18 healthy controls during a Stroop task that intermixed no-incentive and reward trials. Relative to controls, MDD participants showed (1) larger ERN irrespective of task incentives, and (2) reduced Pe during reward (but not no-incentive) trials. Moreover, among MDD participants, Pe amplitudes were negatively correlated with depression severity and clinical symptoms. The present findings highlight distinct effects of task incentives on electrophysiological components of error processing and are interpreted within current theories of action monitoring and incentive processing in depression.

One aspect of cognition that has attracted considerable interest is the ability to adjust performance with shifting incentives and the consequences of previous events (action monitoring). This capacity allows us to coordinate actions in a manner that maximizes the likelihood of achieving intended goals, even following unexpected changes in the environment. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is characterized by action-monitoring dysfunction-particularly, impaired behavioral performance in situations requiring adaptive strategy shifts (Beats, Sahakian, & Levy, 1996; Elliott et al., 1996; Holmes & Pizzagalli, 2008) and decreased approach-related behavior (for a review, see Pizzagalli, Dillon, Bogdan, & Holmes, in press). Thus, impairments in action monitoring might be partially explained by abnormalities in incentive processing. Providing initial support for this hypothesis, among healthy controls, action monitoring has been found to be modulated by motivational/ emotional context and individual differences in reward sensitivity (Boksem, Tops, Kostermans, & De Cremer, 2008; Holmes & Pizzagalli, 2007; Luu, Tucker, Derryberry, Reed, & Poulsen, 2003).

A growing literature suggests that dysregulated activity within structures critically implicated in action monitoring and incentive processing, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), could contribute to behavioral impairments in MDD (e.g., Alexopoulos et al., 2005; Forbes et al., 2006; Siegle, Thompson, Carter, Steinhauer, & Thase, 2007). Specifically, dysfunctional ACC activity in MDD has been associated with reduced performance following perceived failure (errors) or negative feedback ( Holmes & Pizzagalli, 2008; Tucker, Luu, Frishkoff, Quiring, & Poulsen, 2003), as well as reduced responsiveness to positive reinforcement (e.g., monetary incentives; Forbes et al., 2006). Altogether, prior behavioral and neuroimaging findings raise the possibility that the actionmonitoring system could be differentially modulated by shifts in task-relevant incentives in healthy controls and MDD participants.

Due to the rapid nature of neural processes implicated in action monitoring, research in this area has relied on electrophysiological markers of performance monitoring. Capitalizing on the temporal resolution of event-related potential (ERP) recordings, studies have primarily focused on two response-related waveforms-the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe)-which may represent partially dissociable components of error processing (e.g., Falkenstein, Hoormann, Christ, & Hohnsbein, 2000; Holroyd & Coles, 2002; Overbeek, Nieuwenhuis, & Ridderinkhof, 2005; van Veen & Carter, 2002).


Occurring 50-150 msec following an incorrect response and elicited even when participants are unaware of having committed a mistake (see, e. …

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