Boosting the effect of reward on cognitive control using TMS over the left IFJ

Bernadette Hippmann*, Ivo Kuhlemann, Tobias Bäumer, Jörg Bahlmann, Thomas F. Münte, Sarah Jessen

*Corresponding author for this work


Although an enhancing effect of reward on cognitive performance has been observed consistently, its neural underpinnings remain elusive. Recent evidence suggests that the inferior frontal junction (IFJ) may be a key player underlying such an enhancement by integrating motivational processes and cognitive control. However, its exact role and in particular a potential causality of IFJ activation is still unclear. In the present study, we therefore investigated the causal contributions of the left IFJ in motivated task switching by temporarily disrupting its activity using continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS, Exp.1) or 1 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS, Exp.2). After TMS application over the left IFJ or a control site (vertex), participants performed a switch task in which numbers had to be judged by magnitude or parity. Different amounts of monetary rewards (high vs low) were used to manipulate the participants’ motivational states. We measured reaction times and error rates. Irrespective of TMS stimulation, participants exhibited slower responses following task switches compared to task repeats. This effect was reduced in high reward trials. Importantly, we found that disrupting the IFJ improved participants’ behavioral performance in the high reward condition. For high reward trials exclusively, error rates decreased when the IFJ was modulated with cTBS or 1 Hz rTMS but not after vertex stimulation. Our results suggest that the left IFJ is causally related to the increase in cognitive performance through reward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-115
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 04.03.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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