The feedback correct-related positivity: Sensitivity of the event-related brain potential to unexpected positive feedback


  • This research was supported in part by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Grant RGPIN 312409-05, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Fellowship ST–SGS–349 (05–1) CLIN, the University of Victoria Fellowship Program, a Petch Research Scholarship, and an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. We are grateful to the research assistants in the Brain and Cognition Laboratory for help with data collection.

Address reprint requests to: Clay Holroyd, Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 3P5, Canada. E-mail:


The N200 and the feedback error-related negativity (fERN) are two components of the event-related brain potential (ERP) that share similar scalp distributions, time courses, morphologies, and functional dependencies, which raises the question as to whether they are actually the same phenomenon. To investigate this issue, we recorded the ERP from participants engaged in two tasks that independently elicited the N200 and fERN. Our results indicate that they are, in fact, the same ERP component and further suggest that positive feedback elicits a positive-going deflection in the time range of the fERN. Taken together, these results indicate that negative feedback elicits a common N200 and that modulation of fERN amplitude results from the superposition on correct trials of a positive-going deflection that we term the feedback correct-related positivity.