Markus Ullsperger

Multiplexed Performance Monitoring Signals in the EEG in health and mental disorders

Performance monitoring is essential for successful goal-directed behavior. An important aspect is the utilization of feedback on action outcomes in uncertain environments to make inferences on action-outcome contingencies and to learn and update action values. After a brief introduction of the neuroimaging and EEG correlates of performance monitoring in humans I will focus on feedback-related EEG dynamics. I will present data on the representation of reward prediction errors, learning rate, surprise and other variables guiding future decisions in the feedback-locked EEG. In a series of probabilistic learning experiments we found that variables influencing the update of stimulus and action values are represented in a latency range between 200 and 700 ms in a multiplexed fashion. Multivariate pattern analysis and regression approaches show that feedback-locked EEG activity can be used to predict subsequent behavioral adjustments and future decisions. In the last part of my presentation I will present data from patients with schizophrenia and major depressive disorder, respectively. Both patient groups show deficits in probabilistic learning. A transdiagnostic finding is that both groups show a reduced dynamics (i.e., decay) of the learning rate with learning progress rendering them more susceptible to misleading probabilistic feedback. These behavioral deficits are accompanied by specific changes in the feedback-locked EEG dynamics.


Professor Markus Ullsperger heads the Department of Neuropsychology at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. His research focuses on developing and testing neurobiologically plausible models of performance monitoring and adaptive goal-directed behavior in humans. To this end he pursues a convergent-methods approach combining neuroimaging and EEG with computational modeling and pharmacological challenges. In addition to studies in healthy participants, his research extends to clinical populations with neurological, neuropsychological, and psychiatric disorders. His current work focuses on the interactions of the anterior midcingulate cortex with other brain regions to signal the necessity and implement adaptations, ranging from motor slowing via shifts in selective attention to learning and belief updating.

Trained as a physician, Markus Ullsperger obtained his doctoral degree at the Max Planck Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in Leipzig, Germany, in 2000. Thereafter he worked as a scientific staff member at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig at the Department of Cognitive Neurology. After his habilitation, he moved to Cologne, where he headed the Max Planck Research Group ‘Cognitive Neurology’ at the Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research. In 2009, he was appointed as full professor of Biological Psychology at the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, and principal investigator at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour. Since 2012, he has been full professor of Neuropsychology at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany. Since 2017, he is member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences Magdeburg. In 2021/22 he was President of the Society for Psychophysiological Research (SPR).

Honors and Awards:

  • ERC Advanced Grant (2021)
  • Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychophysiology (Society for Psychophysiological Research, 2008)
  • Dr. Carl Zeise Prize of Leipzig University (best medical Dissertation in year 2000)