Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Frontal oscillatory dynamics in the theta (4–8 Hz) and beta (20–30 Hz) frequency bands have been implicated in cognitive control processes. Here we investigated the changes in coordinated activity within and between frontal brain areas during feedback-based response learning. In a time estimation task, participants learned to press a button after specific, randomly selected time intervals (300–2000 msec) using the feedback after each button press (correct, too fast, too slow). Consistent with previous findings, theta-band activity over medial frontal scalp sites (presumably reflecting medial frontal cortex activity) was stronger after negative feedback, whereas beta-band activity was stronger after positive feedback. Theta-band power predicted learning only after negative feedback, and beta-band power predicted learning after positive and negative feedback. Furthermore, negative feedback increased theta-band intersite phase synchrony (a millisecond resolution measure of functional connectivity) among right lateral prefrontal, medial frontal, and sensorimotor sites. These results demonstrate the importance of frontal theta- and beta-band oscillations and intersite communication in the realization of reinforcement learning.