Learning from past mistakes is of prominent importance for successful future behavior. In the present study, we tested whether reinforcement learning signals in the brain are predictive of adequate learning of a sequence of motor actions. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) while subjects engaged in a sequence learning task. The results showed that brain responses to feedback (the feedback-related negativity [FRN]) predicted whether subjects learned to avoid an erroneous response the next time this action had to be performed. Our findings add to a growing literature on feedback-based performance adjustment, by showing that FRN amplitudes may reflect the acquisition of motor skill and the consolidation of contingencies between stimuli or cues and their associated responses, providing evidence that learning efficiency and future performance can be predicted by the neural response to current feedback: FRN amplitude associated with a mistake is predictive of whether this mistake will be repeated, or learned from.
van der Helden, J., Boksem, M. A. S., & Blom, J. H. G. (2009). The Importance of Failure: Feedback-Related Negativity Predicts Motor Learning Efficiency. Cerebral cortex, 20(7), 1596-1603. https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhp224