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Choking on the Money: Reward-Based Performance Decrements Are Associated With Midbrain Activity

Mobbs, Dean ; Hassabis, Demis ; Seymour, Ben ; Marchant, Jennifer L ; Weiskopf, Nikolaus ; Dolan, Raymond J ; Frith, Christopher D

Psychological Science, August 2009, Vol.20(8), pp.955-962 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Choking on the Money: Reward-Based Performance Decrements Are Associated With Midbrain Activity
  • Author/Creator: Mobbs, Dean ; Hassabis, Demis ; Seymour, Ben ; Marchant, Jennifer L ; Weiskopf, Nikolaus ; Dolan, Raymond J ; Frith, Christopher D
  • Language: English
  • Subjects: Psychology
  • Is Part Of: Psychological Science, August 2009, Vol.20(8), pp.955-962
  • Description: To authenticate to the full-text of this article, please visit this link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02399.x Byline: Dean Mobbs (1,2), Demis Hassabis (1), Ben Seymour (1), Jennifer L. Marchant (1), Nikolaus Weiskopf (1), Raymond J. Dolan (1), Christopher D. Frith (1,3) Abstract: ABSTRACT A pernicious paradox in human motivation is the occasional reduced performance associated with tasks and situations that involve larger-than-average rewards. Three broad explanations that might account for such performance decrements are attentional competition (distraction theories), inhibition by conscious processes (explicit-monitoring theories), and excessive drive and arousal (overmotivation theories). Here, we report incentive-dependent performance decrements in humans in a reward-pursuit task; subjects were less successful in capturing a more valuable reward in a computerized maze. Concurrent functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that increased activity in ventral midbrain, a brain area associated with incentive motivation and basic reward responding, correlated with both reduced number of captures and increased number of near-misses associated with imminent high rewards. These data cast light on the neurobiological basis of choking under pressure and are consistent with overmotivation accounts. Author Affiliation: (1)Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Functional Imaging Laboratory, University College London (2)MRC-Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, United Kingdom; and (3)Centre for Functional Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark Article History: (R eceived 6/10/08; R evision A ccepted 12/6/08) Article note: Address correspondence to Dean Mobbs, MRC-Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Rd., Cambridge CB2 2EF, United Kingdom, e-mail: dean.mobbs@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk.
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0956-7976 ; E-ISSN: 1467-9280 ; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02399.x