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Oops! Researchers publish new findings on the brain's response to costly mistakes

a monetary reward between 25 cents and $2, while others carried penalties of the same size. Still others carried no reward or penalty. The participants were told they had a $10 "credit" to begin, and that they would receive real cash depending on their balance at the end.

The participants had to correctly, and within a deadline of a few hundred milliseconds, press a button corresponding to one of two alphabetic letter pairs. They were instructed to determine which letter was the odd one out in a series of other letters. Some of the letter sequences were more confusing than others. They received immediate feedback telling them if they were wrong or too late in responding.

"In general, the response to a mistake that cost them money was greater than the response to other mistakes, and the involvement of the rACC suggests the importance of emotions in decision and performance-monitoring processes," says Stephan Taylor, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the U-M Medical School and lead author of the new paper. "It's very interesting to us that the same part of the brain that responded in our OCD study on regular, no-cost errors also responded in healthy individuals when we made the error count more."

The new research confirms previous U-M studies using a different brain-activity monitoring technique and led by senior author William Gehring, Ph.D., Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Psychology in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and director of the U-M Human Brain Electrophysiology Laboratory.

For more than a decade, Gehring has used a measuring tool known as the event-related potential or ERP to study brain responses to various situations, assessing changes in electrical activity through sensors arranged on a mesh cap that is placed on the head. The method is similar to techniques used to study the brains of people with epilepsy or sleep problems, but the electrical signal from the brain is p
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Source:University of Michigan Health System


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