Look who's judging-Feedback source modulates brain activation to performance feedback in social anxiety

Jutta Peterburs, Carolin Sandrock, Wolfgang H.R. Miltner, Thomas Straube

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is as yet unknown if behavioral and neural correlates of performance monitoring in socially anxious individuals are affected by whether feedback is provided by a person or a computer. This fMRI study investigated modulation of feedback processing by feedback source (person vs. computer) in participants with high (HSA) (N = 16) and low social anxiety (LSA) (N = 16). Subjects performed a choice task in which they were informed that they would receive positive or negative feedback from a person or the computer. Subjective ratings indicated increased arousal and anxiety in HSA versus LSA, most pronounced for social and negative feedback. FMRI analyses yielded hyperactivation in ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)/anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and insula for social relative to computer feedback, and in mPFC/ventral ACC for positive relative to negative feedback in HSA as compared to LSA. These activation patterns are consistent with increased interoception and self-referential processing in social anxiety, especially during processing of positive feedback. Increased ACC activation in HSA to positive feedback may link to unexpectedness of (social) praise as posited in social anxiety disorder (SAD) psychopathology. Activation in rostral ACC showed a reversed pattern, with decreased activation to positive feedback in HSA, possibly indicating altered action values depending on feedback source and valence. The present findings corroborate a crucial role of mPFC for performance monitoring in social anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-437
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Feedback processing
  • Performance monitoring
  • Self-focus
  • Social context
  • Social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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