Temporal dynamics of reward processing revealed by magnetoencephalography

Nuria Doñamayor, Josep Marco-Pallarés, Marcus Heldmann, M. Ariel Schoenfeld, Thomas F. Münte*

*Corresponding author for this work
38 Citations (Scopus)


Monetary gains and losses in gambling situations are associated with a distinct electroencephalographic signature: in the event-related potentials (ERPs), a mediofrontal feedback-related negativity (FRN) is seen for losses, whereas oscillatory activity shows a burst of in the θ-range for losses and in the β-range for gains. We used whole-head magnetoencephalography to pinpoint the magnetic counterparts of these effects in young healthy adults and explore their evolution over time. On each trial, participants bet on one of two visually presented numbers (25 or 5) by button-press. Both numbers changed color: if the chosen number turned green (red), it indicated a gain (loss) of the corresponding sum in Euro cent. For losses, we found the magnetic correlate of the FRN extending between 230 and 465 ms. Source localization with low-resolution electromagnetic tomography indicated a first generator in posterior cingulate cortex with subsequent activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. Importantly, this effect was sensitive to the magnitude of the monetary loss (25 cent > 5 cent). Later activation was also found in the right insula. Time-frequency analysis revealed a number of oscillatory components in the theta, alpha, and high-beta/low-gamma bands associated to gains, and in the high-beta band, associated to the magnitude of the loss. All together, these effects provide a more fine-grained picture of the temporal dynamics of the processing of monetary rewards and losses in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2228-2240
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2011


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