Effects of intrinsic motivation on feedback processing during learning

Neuroimage. 2015 Oct 1:119:175-86. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.06.046. Epub 2015 Jun 22.


Learning commonly requires feedback about the consequences of one's actions, which can drive learners to modify their behavior. Motivation may determine how sensitive an individual might be to such feedback, particularly in educational contexts where some students value academic achievement more than others. Thus, motivation for a task might influence the value placed on performance feedback and how effectively it is used to improve learning. To investigate the interplay between intrinsic motivation and feedback processing, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during feedback-based learning before and after a novel manipulation based on motivational interviewing, a technique for enhancing treatment motivation in mental health settings. Because of its role in the reinforcement learning system, the striatum is situated to play a significant role in the modulation of learning based on motivation. Consistent with this idea, motivation levels during the task were associated with sensitivity to positive versus negative feedback in the striatum. Additionally, heightened motivation following a brief motivational interview was associated with increases in feedback sensitivity in the left medial temporal lobe. Our results suggest that motivation modulates neural responses to performance-related feedback, and furthermore that changes in motivation facilitate processing in areas that support learning and memory.

Keywords: Associative memory; Feedback; Intrinsic motivation; Learning; Striatum.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Female
  • Formative Feedback*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*