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Sex differences in the neural underpinnings of social and monetary incentive processing during adolescence

  • Ellen Greimel
  • Sarolta Bakos
  • Iris Landes
  • Thomas Töllner
  • Jürgen Bartling
  • Gregor Kohls
  • Gerd Schulte-Körne
Article
  • 228 Downloads

Abstract

The brain’s reward system undergoes major changes during adolescence, and an increased reactivity to social and nonsocial incentives has been described as a typical feature during this transitional period. Little is known whether there are sex differences in the brain’s responsiveness to social or monetary incentives during adolescence. The aim of this event-related potential (ERP) study was to compare the neurophysiological underpinnings of monetary and social incentive processing in adolescent boys versus girls. During ERP recording, 38 adolescents (21 females, 17 males; 13–18 years) completed an incentive delay task comprising (a) a reward versus punishment condition and (b) social versus monetary incentives. The stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN) was recorded during anticipation of reward and punishment, and the feedback P3 (fP3) along with the feedback-related negativity (FRN) after reward/punishment delivery. During anticipation of social punishment, adolescent boys compared with girls exhibited a reduced SPN. After delivery, male adolescents exhibited higher fP3 amplitudes to monetary compared with social incentives, whereas fP3 amplitudes in girls were comparable across incentive types. Moreover, whereas in boys fP3 responses were higher in rewards than in punishment trials, no such difference was evident in girls. The results indicate that adolescent boys show a reduced neural responsivity in the prospect of social punishment. Moreover, the findings imply that, once the incentive is obtained, adolescent boys attribute a relatively enhanced motivational significance to monetary incentives and show a relative hyposensitivity to punishment. The findings might contribute to our understanding of sex-specific vulnerabilities to problem behaviors related to incentive processing during adolescence.

Keywords

Sex Event-related potentials Adolescence Monetary Social Reward Punishment Incentive 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to all participants with their families who took part in this study. We further would like to thank Carolina Silberbauer and Petra Wagenbüchler for their assistance during data collection. This work was supported by the Faculty of Medicine, University of Munich (Förderprogramm für Forschung und Lehre to E.G; 776).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen Greimel
    • 1
  • Sarolta Bakos
    • 1
  • Iris Landes
    • 1
  • Thomas Töllner
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jürgen Bartling
    • 1
  • Gregor Kohls
    • 4
  • Gerd Schulte-Körne
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of Experimental PsychologyLudwig-Maximilians-University of MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.Graduate School of Systemic NeurosciencesLudwig-Maximilians-University of MunichMunichGermany
  4. 4.Child Neuropsychology Section, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy, Medical FacultyRWTH Aachen University HospitalAachenGermany

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