Overlapping neural systems represent cognitive effort and reward anticipation
SourcePLoS One, 9, 3, (2014), article e91008
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Motivational & Cognitive Control
Subject170 000 Motivational & Cognitive Control
Anticipating a potential benefit and how difficult it will be to obtain it are valuable skills in a constantly changing environment. In the human brain, the anticipation of reward is encoded by the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) and Striatum. Naturally, potential rewards have an incentive quality, resulting in a motivational effect improving performance. Recently it has been proposed that an upcoming task requiring effort induces a similar anticipation mechanism as reward, relying on the same cortico-limbic network. However, this overlapping anticipatory activity for reward and effort has only been investigated in a perceptual task. Whether this generalizes to high-level cognitive tasks remains to be investigated. To this end, an fMRI experiment was designed to investigate anticipation of reward and effort in cognitive tasks. A mental arithmetic task was implemented, manipulating effort (difficulty), reward, and delay in reward delivery to control for temporal confounds. The goal was to test for the motivational effect induced by the expectation of bigger reward and higher effort. The results showed that the activation elicited by an upcoming difficult task overlapped with higher reward prospect in the ACC and in the striatum, thus highlighting a pivotal role of this circuit in sustaining motivated behavior.
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