Human research has shown interactions between rewards and cognitive control. In animal models of affective neuroscience, reward administration typically involves administering orosensory sugar signals (OSS) during caloric-deprived states. We adopted this procedure to investigate neurophysiological mechanisms of reward-cognitive control interactions in humans. We predicted that OSS would affect neurophysiological and behavioral indices of error processing oppositely, depending on the relative weight of the OSS-induced 'wanting' and 'liking' components of reward. We, therefore, conducted a double-blind, non-nutritive sweetener-controlled study with a within-subject design. Fasted (16 hr) participants (N = 61) performed a modified Flanker task to assess neurophysiological (error-related negativity [Ne/ERN]) and behavioral (post-error adaptations) measures of error processing. Non-contingent to task performance, we repeatedly administered either a sugar (glucose) or non-nutritive sweetener (aspartame) solution, which had to be expulsed after short oral stimulation to prevent post-oral effects. Consistent with our hypothesis on how 'liking' would affect Ne/ERN amplitude, we found the latter to be decreased for sugar compared to aspartame. Unexpectedly, we found post-error accuracy, instead of post-error slowing, to be reduced by sugar relative to aspartame. Our findings suggest that OSS may interact with error processing through the 'liking' component of rewards. Adopting our reward-induction procedure (i.e. administering OSS in a state of high reward sensitivity [i.e. fasting], non-contingent to task performance) might help future research investigating the neural underpinnings of reward-cognitive control interactions in humans.
Keywords: 'liking'; 'wanting'; Carbohydrate mouth rinsing; error negativity/error-related negativity (Ne/ERN); error processing; fasting; performance monitoring; reward; sweet taste.