History of conditioned reward association disrupts inhibitory control: an examination of neural correlates

Published Date: 
December 13, 2020

The neural processes that support inhibitory control in the face of stimuli with a history of reward association are not yet well understood. Yet, the ability to flexibly adapt behavior to changing reward-contingency contexts is important for daily functioning and warrants further investigation. This study aimed to characterize neural and behavioral impacts of stimuli with a history of conditioned reward association on motor inhibitory control in healthy young adults by investigating group-level effects as well as individual variation in the ability to inhibit responses to stimuli with a reward history. Participants (N = 41) first completed a reward conditioning phase, during which responses to rewarded stimuli were associated with money and responses to unrewarded stimuli were not. Rewarded and unrewarded stimuli from training were carried forward as No-Go targets in a subsequent go/no-go task to test the effect of reward history on inhibitory control. Participants underwent functional brain imaging during the go/no-go portion of the task. On average, a history of reward conditioning disrupted inhibitory control. Compared to inhibition of responses to stimuli with no reward history, trials that required inhibition of responses to previously rewarded stimuli were associated with greater activity in frontal and striatal regions, including the inferior frontal gyrus, insula, striatum, and thalamus. Activity in the insula and thalamus during false alarms and in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex during correctly withheld trials predicted behavioral performance on the task. Overall, these results suggest that reward history serves to disrupt inhibitory control and provide evidence for diverging roles of the insula and ventromedial prefrontal cortex while inhibiting responses to stimuli with a reward history.

Kristin N Meyer Juliet Y Davidow Koene R A Van Dijk  Rosario M Santillana Jenna Snyder Constanza M Vidal Bustamante Marissa Hollinshead Bruce R Rosen Leah H Somerville Margaret A Sheridan