Dopamine and Proximity in Motivation and Cognitive Control

Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2018 Aug:22:28-34. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2017.12.011. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Cognitive control - the ability to override a salient or prepotent action to execute a more deliberate one - is required for flexible, goal-directed behavior, and yet it is subjectively costly: decision-makers avoid allocating control resources, even when doing so affords more valuable outcomes. Dopamine likely offsets effort costs just as it does for physical effort. And yet, dopamine can also promote impulsive action, undermining control. We propose a novel hypothesis that reconciles opposing effects of dopamine on cognitive control: during action selection, striatal dopamine biases benefits relative to costs, but does so preferentially for "proximal" motor and cognitive actions. Considering the nature of instrumental affordances and their dynamics during action selection facilitates a parsimonious interpretation and conserved corticostriatal mechanisms across physical and cognitive domains.

Keywords: Cognitive control; action selection; dopamine; effort; motivation; prepotency; proximity; striatum.