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Choking on the Money: Reward-Based Performance Decrements Are Associated With Midbrain Activity

Mobbs, D; Hassabis, D; Seymour, B; Marchant, JL; Weiskopf, N; Dolan, RJ; Frith, CD; (2009) Choking on the Money: Reward-Based Performance Decrements Are Associated With Midbrain Activity. PSYCHOL SCI , 20 (8) 955 - 962. Gold open access

Abstract

A pernicious paradox in human motivation is the occasional reduced performance associated with tasks and situations that involve larger-than-average rewards. Three broad explanations that might account for such performance decrements are attentional competition (distraction theories), inhibition by conscious processes (explicit-monitoring theories), and excessive drive and arousal (overmotivation theories). Here, we report incentive-dependent performance decrements in humans in a reward-pursuit task; subjects were less successful in capturing a more valuable reward in a computerized maze. Concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that increased activity in ventral midbrain, a brain area associated with incentive motivation and basic reward responding, correlated with both reduced number of captures and increased number of near-misses associated with imminent high rewards. These data cast light on the neurobiological basis of choking under pressure and are consistent with overmotivation accounts.

Type:Article
Title:Choking on the Money: Reward-Based Performance Decrements Are Associated With Midbrain Activity
Open access status:An open access publication
Publisher version:http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/19594859
Keywords:SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, WORKING-MEMORY, HUMAN BRAIN, DOPAMINE, PRESSURE, INCENTIVES, REINFORCEMENT, EMOTION, CORTEX
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Neurology > Neurodegenerative Diseases
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit

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