It is becoming gradually clear that the human brain must continuously make predictions for the
purpose of cognitive functioning. One of the features we make predictions about, is reward.
Whenever there is a difference between reward outcome and reward prediction, we experience a
reward prediction error (RPE). RPEs have been repeatedly shown to guide procedural learning (i.e.,
skill learning by means of repeated practice). Surprisingly, however, there are only very few
studies investigating the role of RPEs in learning facts and knowledge we can consciously declare
(i.e., declarative memory). In this project, I will address this issue. A recent study from our lab (De
Loof, Ergo, Naert, Janssens, Van Opstal & Verguts, under review) suggests that RPEs can drive the
formation of new declarative memories. More specifically, recognition of word pairs was
especially enhanced for highly unexpected but rewarded trials. Despite the promise of this study,
it is merely a first step in bridging the literatures on RPEs and declarative learning. With this
project, I aim to investigate the generality of this effect by applying an electrophysiological
approach. More specifically, I will investigate how spectral power is correlated across brain regions
and is related to single-trial performance. By doing so, I expect to determine how RPEs influence
and shape declarative memory, on both behavioral and neural levels.