How the aging brain translates motivational incentive into action: the role of individual differences in striato-cortical white matter pathways

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2011 Oct;1(4):530-9. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2011.06.005. Epub 2011 Jun 24.


The anticipation of reward enhances actions that lead to those rewards, but individuals differ in how effectively motivational incentives modulate their actions. Such individual differences are particularly prominent in aging. In order to account for such inter-individual variability among older adults, we approach the neurobiological mechanisms of motivated behavior from an individual differences perspective focusing on white matter pathways in the aging brain. Using analyses of probabilistic tractography seeded in the striatum, we report that the estimated strength of cortico-striatal and intra-striatal white matter pathways among older adults correlated with how effectively motivational incentives modulated their actions. Specifically, individual differences in the extent to which elderly participants utilized reward cues to prepare and perform more efficient antisaccades predicted structural connectivity of the striatum with cortical areas involved in reward anticipation and oculomotor control. These striatal connectivity profiles endow us with a network account for individual differences in motivated behavior among older adults. More generally, the data suggest that capturing individual differences may be crucial to better understand developmental trajectories in motivated behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology