Neural Dynamic Responses of Monetary and Social Reward Processes in Adolescents

Front Hum Neurosci. 2020 Apr 21;14:141. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2020.00141. eCollection 2020.


Adolescence is an essential developmental period characterized by reward-related processes. The current study investigated the development of monetary and social reward processes in adolescents compared with that in children and adults; furthermore, it assessed whether adolescents had different levels of sensitivity to various types of rewards. Two adapted incentive delay tasks were employed for each participant, and event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. The behavioral results showed that both monetary and social rewards could motivate response speed, and participants were more accurate under the monetary reward condition than under the social reward condition. The behavioral performances of individuals increased with age. For the ERP data, the cue-P3, target-P2, target-P3 and feedback-related negativity (FRN) components were investigated to identify reward motivation, emotional arousal, attention allocation and feedback processing. Children and adolescents showed higher motivation (larger cue-P3) to rewards than adults. Adolescents showed larger emotional responses to rewards; that is, they had larger target-P2 amplitudes than adults and shorter target-P2 latencies than children. Children showed stronger emotional reactivity for monetary rewards than for social rewards. All age groups had stronger attentional control (larger target-P3) under the monetary reward condition than under the social reward condition. The present study sheds light on the neurodevelopment of reward processes in children, adolescents and adults and shows that various reward process stages demonstrate different age-related and reward-type-related characteristics.

Keywords: adolescence; event-related potential; monetary reward; neurodevelopment; reward processes; social reward.