Electrophysiology of goal-directed versus habitual control during outcome devaluation

Mushfa Yousuf, Marcus Heldmann, Thomas F. Münte, Nuria Doñamayor*

*Corresponding author for this work


Dual-system accounts posit that instrumental behavior is controlled by both a goal-directed and a habitual system. In this study, we aimed to identify the electrophysiological components associated with goal-directed versus habitual performance using an outcome devaluation procedure. Datasets from 35 healthy participants were analyzed. Behaviorally, in line with previous research, participants displayed sensitivity to outcome devaluation, a hallmark of goal-directed control. Electrophysiologically, decreased N2 and increased error-related negativity (ERN) amplitudes were associated with slips of action in conditions that could potentially engage both the goal-directed and habitual systems. These amplitude differences were more pronounced in participants that displayed more sensitivity to devaluation. Furthermore, we show how specific neurophysiological learning signals, namely ERN and feedback-locked P3, could predict subsequent sensitivity to devaluation. Our findings indicate that the N2 and ERN components can be used as indices of goal-directed versus habitual control, and emphasize the importance of the ERN as an electrophysiological trait in the context of goal-directed behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-416
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 10.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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