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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Mar;9(3):342-9. doi: 10.1093/scan/nss147. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Effort increases sensitivity to reward and loss magnitude in the human brain.

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MD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Bonn Medical Center, Sigmund Freud-Str. 25, D-53127 Bonn, Germany.


It is ecologically adaptive that the amount of effort invested to achieve a reward increases the relevance of the resulting outcome. Here, we investigated the effect of effort on activity in reward and loss processing brain areas by using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In total, 28 subjects were endowed with monetary rewards of randomly varying magnitude after performing arithmetic calculations that were either difficult (high effort), easy (low effort) or already solved (no effort). Subsequently, a forced donation took place, where a varying part of the endowment was transferred to a charity organization, causing a loss for the subject. Results show that reward magnitude positively modulates activity in reward-processing brain areas (subgenual anterior cingulate cortex and nucleus accumbens) only in the high effort condition. Furthermore, anterior insular activity was positively modulated by loss magnitude only after high effort. The results strongly suggest an increasing relevance of outcomes with increasing previous effort.


effort; functional magnetic resonance imaging; locus of control; reward processing

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