Dopamine Promotes Cognitive Effort by Biasing the Benefits Versus Costs of Cognitive Work
Date of Archiving2020
Radboud Data Repository
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PI Group Motivational & Cognitive Control
Key wordsCaudate nucleus; Methylphenidate; Sulpiride; Synthesis capacity; Dopamine; Cognitive effort; Drift diffusion modeling; Eye tracking
Stimulants like methylphenidate are increasingly used for cognitive enhancement, but precise mechanisms are unknown. We found that methylphenidate boosts willingness to expend cognitive effort by altering the benefit-to-cost ratio of cognitive work. Willingness to expend effort was greater for participants with higher striatal dopamine synthesis capacity, while methylphenidate and sulpiride – a selective D2 receptor antagonist – increased cognitive motivation more for participants with lower synthesis capacity. A sequential sampling model informed by momentary gaze revealed that decisions to expend effort are related to amplification of benefit-versus-cost information attended early in the decision process, while the effect of benefits is strengthened with higher synthesis capacity and by methylphenidate. These findings demonstrate that methylphenidate boosts the perceived benefits-versus-costs of cognitive effort by modulating striatal dopamine signaling.