Unraveling the Mysteries of Motivation

Trends Cogn Sci. 2020 Jun;24(6):425-434. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2020.03.001. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


Motivation plays a central role in human behavior and cognition but is not well captured by widely used artificial intelligence (AI) and computational modeling frameworks. This Opinion article addresses two central questions regarding the nature of motivation: what are the nature and dynamics of the internal goals that drive our motivational system and how can this system be sufficiently flexible to support our ability to rapidly adapt to novel situations, tasks, etc.? In reviewing existing systems and neuroscience research and theorizing on these questions, a wealth of insights to constrain the development of computational models of motivation can be found.

Keywords: anterior cingulate cortex; computational models; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; frontostriatal loops; goals; motivation; orbital frontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Prefrontal Cortex