3D representation of motivational system (striatum ventral) activated during physical or mental effort. Credit: Copyright M. M. Pessiglione, Inserm)
Mathias Pessiglione and his team from Inserm unit 975 “Centre de recherche en neurosciences de la Pitié-Salpêtrière” examined whether mental and physical efforts are driven by a motivation ‘centre’ or whether they are conducted by different parts of the brain. The researchers studied the neural mechanisms resulting from activities that combine both action and cognition.
Using images obtained from the MRI scans taken during the test, Mathias Pessiglione and his team identified a general motivational system in the depths of the brain, i.e. a structure capable of activating any effort type, both mental (concentrating on the task in hand) or physical (lifting a load). The researchers observed that the ventral striatum was activated in proportion to the amount of money involved: the higher the degree of motivation, the higher the activation level. Furthermore, the ventral striatum is connected to the median part of the striatum (the caudate nucleus) when the task to be performed is cognitively difficult (when the physical size and the numerical value of the numbers did not correspond). This ventral region solicits the lateral part of the striatum (the putamen) when the difficulty is motor-related (when the handle had to be squeezed very tightly).
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