What changes in brain activity are associated with changes in motivational state? The present study addressed this question by having participants perform a cognitive task (AX variant of the Continuous Performance Test; AX-CPT) under three different blocked motivational conditions (reward-incentive, penalty-incentive, and baseline). Behavioral data showed that the incentive conditions modulated task performance, potentially by altering participants’ cognitive control strategy. Neuroimaging data indicated that the reward condition was associated with a sustained increase in a primarily right-lateralized network that included parietal and prefrontal cortex. Additionally, individual differences were observed, such that activation in both reward-related brain regions and frontopolar cortex was linked to the degree of motivation-induced performance enhancement and to motivation-related personality variables. These results suggest that changes in motivational state may modulate performance through sustained activity in cognitive control regions and that the effect of incentives may be affected by the personalities of the participants.
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