Motivation and Working Memory

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Science  10 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5570, pp. 983
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5570.983d

When trying to accomplish any kind of task, people usually need both to be motivated and to generate a plan as to how to proceed.

Pochon et al. used fMRI to investigate the brain structures involved in the motivational and cognitive aspects of goal-directed actions. Volunteers performed working memory tasks at different levels of complexity. These tasks were randomly associated with different degrees of reward. The working memory paradigm activated well-known working memory areas in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Under more difficult conditions, lateral frontopolar regions were also recruited. High reward conditions elicited additional activation in areas already activated by working memory. Other areas showing a correlation with the degree of reward, independent of the level of executive demand, included the anterior cingulate cortex and the frontal pole. However, several brain areas belonging to a paralimbic network, including the medial prefrontal cortex, ventral prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and temporal pole, showed deactivation correlated with higher cognitive demand and higher reward levels. These deactivations could perhaps be explained by an emotional gating function necessary to free cognitive areas and optimize their performance.—PRS

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99, 5669 (2002).

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