Reward vs. Punishment: An fMRI Analysis Approach to Identifying the Neural Substrates of Motivation and Cognitive Control03/21/2017
Every day, humans face the complex cost-benefit analysis of integrating numerous different incentives to pursue behavioral goals. Impairments in cognitive control (and particularly an abnormal response to motivation) underlie disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addictions; as such it is important to illustrate how differing motivational cues are processed in healthy humans. Research has made great progress in discovering the behavioral and neural mechanisms that underlie motivation and cognitive control. However, a significant question that remains to be addressed is whether rewards and punishments utilize the same or different neural substrates to yield motivational effects. In the current study, participants performed a cued-task switching paradigm during two fMRI scanning sessions, with liquid incentives serving as either a reward for desirable performance or a punishment for failure to complete the task quickly and accurately. Reward and punishment incentives resulted in comparable behavioral task performance. Upon contrasting reward and punishment, our analysis revealed several regions of interest that appear to be distinct between the conditions. This analysis utilized data quality checks, a standard preprocessing analysis, and GLM contrasts to illuminate these neural substrates of reward vs. punishment motivation. Results suggesting the utilization of different neural substrates between reward and punishment conditions give reason to apply the more sensitive Multi-Voxel Pattern Analysis approach to further clarify and support these findings in the future.