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Motor learning can be monitored by observing the development of neural correlates of error processing. Among these neural correlates, the error- and feedback-related negativity (Ne/ERN and FRN) represent error processing mechanisms. While the Ne/ERN is more related to error prediction, the FRN is found after an error is manifested. The questions the current study strives to answer are: What information is needed by the system to make error predictions and how is this represented by the Ne/ERN and FRN in a complex motor task? We reduced the information and increased the difficulty level for the prediction in a semivirtual throwing task and found no Ne/ERN but a large FRN when the action result was finally observed (hitting or missing a target). We assume that uncertainty for error prediction was too high (either due to insufficient information or due to lacking prerequisites for prediction), such that error processing had to be mainly based on feedback. The finding is in line with the reinforcement theory of learning, after which Ne/ERN and FRN should behave complementary.
The authors are with the Dept. of Psychology and Sport Science, Justus Liebig Universitat Giessen, Giessen, Germany.