ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (5): 783-799.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.00783

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Reward-anticipation and outcome-evaluation ERPs and its application in psychiatric disorders

LIU Wenhua1,2(), WEN Xiujuan1,2, CHEN Ling2, YANG Rui1,2, HU Yiru1   

  1. 1The Affiliated Brain Hospital, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou 510370, China
    2School of Health Management, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou 511436, China
  • Received:2022-08-23 Online:2023-05-15 Published:2023-02-13
  • Contact: LIU Wenhua


Reward processing abnormalities are prominent in the clinical presentation of patients with major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Reward processing comprises a dynamic set of cognitive component processes that may occur temporally adjacent to each other. Event-related potentials (ERPs), as one of the most commonly used tools to assess cognitive processing with a high temporal resolution, is a useful method to investigate complex, multifaceted constructs composed of the substages of reward processing. However, ERP research in psychiatric conditions has typically focused on a single component of reward processing rather than capturing the dynamics of reward processing. Reward processing can be decomposed into two temporally distinct stages: reward-anticipation and outcome-evaluation, each of which is associated with different ERP components (i.e., reward-anticipation: cue-related N2 and P3, stimulus-preceding negativity or SPN and contingent-negative variation or CNV; outcome-evaluation: feedback-related negativity or FRN/reward positive or RewP, feedback-related P3 or FB-P3 and the late positive potential or FB-LPP), and abnormal activities of these ERPs are closely related to transdiagnostic psychiatric symptoms. Attenuated cue-related N2 (associated with conflict detection) and cue-related P3 (associated with attention allocation) during reward-anticipation stage and blunted FRN/RewP (an initial reactivity to receipt of feedback) and FB-LPP (a sustained processing of motivationally salient stimuli) during outcome-evaluation stage could be found in patients with major depression compared to healthy controls, suggesting a reduced reward sensitivity in patients with depression. For CNV (associated with motor preparation), SPN (associated with anticipation feedback), and FB-P3 (associated with the evaluation of feedback), no consistent findings emerge in previous depression studies. Patients with schizophrenia exhibit abnormal activities of cue-related N2, cue-related P3 and SPN during reward-anticipation stage, and evidences of abnormal ERPs activities are inconclusive during outcome-evaluation stage. Currently few studies have investigated the reward-related ERP components in patients with bipolar disorder. Preliminary findings suggest that patients with bipolar disorder might have enhanced FRN activities during different stages of disease development. Further research should carefully consider some factors which might have an influence on the results, such as small samples, different experimental paradigms and data analysis methods, and the disease state of patients. In conclusion, utilizing multistage experimental designs and implementing multicomponent analyses hold great promise to investigate neurophysiological abnormalities during different stages of reward processing in psychiatric disorders.

Key words: reward, ERP, anticipation, depression

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