Striatal-frontal network activation during voluntary task selection under conditions of monetary reward

  • Joseph M. OrrEmail author
  • Michael J. Imburgio
  • Jessica A. Bernard
  • Marie T. Banich
Special Issue/Reward Systems, Cognition,and Emotion


During voluntary task selection, a number of internal and external biases may guide such a choice. However, it is not well understood how reward influences task selection when multiple options are possible. To address this issue, we examined brain activation in a voluntary task-switching paradigm while participants underwent fMRI (n = 19). To reinforce the overall goal to choose the tasks randomly, participants were told of a large bonus that they would receive at the end of the experiment for making random task choices. We also examined how occasional, random rewards influenced both task performance and brain activation. We hypothesized that these transient rewards would increase the value of the just-performed task, and therefore bias participants to choose to repeat the same task on the subsequent trial. Contrary to expectations, transient reward had no consistent behavioral effect on subsequent task choice. Nevertheless, the receipt of such rewards did influence activation in brain regions associated with reward processing as well as those associated with goal-directed control. In addition, reward on a prior trial was found to influence activation during task choice on a subsequent trial, with greater activation in a number of executive function regions compared with no-reward trials. We posit that both the random presentation of transient rewards and the overall task bonus for random task choices together reinforced the goal to choose the tasks randomly, which in turn influenced activation in both reward-related regions and those regions involved in abstract goal processing.


Cognitive control Decision-making Reward Prefrontal cortex 



This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant P50-079485 to M.T.B. and National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant F32DA034412 to J.M.O. Raw imaging data is available on OpenNeuro at


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© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Texas A&M Institute for NeuroscienceTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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