Suppressing a motivationally-triggered action tendency engages a response control mechanism that prevents future provocation

Neuropsychologia. 2015 Feb;68:218-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2015.01.016. Epub 2015 Jan 13.

Abstract

Reward-predicting stimuli can induce maladaptive behavior by provoking action tendencies that conflict with long-term goals. Earlier, we showed that when human participants were permitted to respond for a reward in the presence of a task-irrelevant, reward-predicting stimulus (i.e. goCS+ trials), the CS+ provoked an action tendency to respond compared to when a non-rewarding CS- stimulus was present (i.e. goCS- trials). However, when participants were not permitted to respond, response suppression was recruited to mitigate the action tendency that was triggered by the motivating CS+ stimulus (i.e. on nogoCS+ trials) (Freeman et al., 2014). Here we tested the hypothesis that repeated response suppression over a motivationally-triggered action tendency would reduce subsequent CS+ provocation. We compared groups of participants who had different proportions of nogoCS+ trials, and we measured CS+ provocation on go trials via reaction time. Our results showed that CS+ provocation on go trials was reduced monotonically as the proportion of nogoCS+ trials increased. Further analysis showed that these group differences were best explained by reduced provocation on goCS+ trials that followed nogoCS+ (compared to nogoCS-) trials. Follow-up experiments using a neurophysiological index of motor activity replicated these effects and also suggested that, following nogoCS+ trials, a response suppression mechanism was in place to help prevent subsequent CS+ provocation. Thus, our results show that performing response suppression in the face of a motivating stimulus not only controls responding at that time, but also prevents provocation in the near future.

Keywords: Cognitive control; Conflict adaptation; Motivation; Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer; Transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Transfer, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult