Feedback processing contributes to efficient learning, decision making, and social interaction. Studies using event-related brain potentials (ERPs) reveal that feedback processing is associated with transient ERP components over the medial frontal and posterior regions of the scalp that distinguish between positive and negative feedback. There is some evidence indicating that aging has differential effects on the ERP correlates of feedback processing in a gambling task, and the current study was designed to extend these findings to a reinforcement learning paradigm. Younger and older adults performed the probabilistic selection task while ERPs elicited by feedback cues indicating a correct or incorrect choice were recorded during the learning phase. The ERPs revealed that the amplitude of the feedback negativity and frontal P3 were attenuated in older adults relative to younger adults. The amplitude of a temporal positivity was also attenuated in older adults; in contrast, the amplitude of an occipital negativity was insensitive to the effects of aging. These findings indicate that aging may be associated with the disruption of both local activity and long-range connectivity between neural structures related to feedback processing.
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