Neural processes of reward and punishment processing in childhood and adolescence: An event-related potential study on age differences

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Lisa Feldmann - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)
  • Iris Landes - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)
  • Gregor Kohls - , Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Esfarayen Faculty of Medical Sciences, University Hospital Aachen (Author)
  • Sarolta Bakos - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)
  • Jürgen Bartling - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)
  • Gerd Schulte-Körne - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)
  • Ellen Greimel - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)


Reward and punishment processing are subject to substantial developmental changes during youth. However, little is known about the neurophysiological correlates that are associated with these developmental changes, particularly with regard to both anticipatory and outcome processing stages. Thus, the aim of this study was to address this research gap in a sample of typically developing children and adolescents. Fifty-four children and adolescents (8-18 years) performed a Monetary Incentive Delay Task comprising a monetary reward and punishment condition. Using event-related brain potential recordings, the cue-P3 and the stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN) were analyzed during the anticipation phase, while the Reward Positivity and the feedback-P3 were analyzed during the outcome phase. When anticipating monetary loss or no gain, SPN amplitude in the right hemisphere decreased with age. Moreover, exploratory analyses revealed a decrease in feedback-P3 amplitudes in response to monetary loss with increasing age. No other group differences were observed. Age-related changes in the SPN and fP3 component suggest that sensitivity to negative outcomes decreases from childhood to late adolescence, supporting the notion that adolescence is associated with reduced harm-avoidance. Longitudinal research including young adults is needed to substantiate our findings and its clinical implications regarding disturbed developmental trajectories in psychiatric populations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100896
JournalDevelopmental cognitive neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC7750689
Scopus 85097731515



  • Adolescent, Child, Electroencephalography, Evoked Potentials, Humans, Motivation, Punishment, Reward