Reward-driven enhancements in motor control are robust to TMS manipulation

Olivier Codol, Joseph M Galea, Roya Jalali, Peter J Holland

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A wealth of evidence describes the strong positive impact that reward has on motor control at the behavioural level. However, surprisingly little is known regarding the neural mechanisms which underpin these effects, beyond a reliance on the dopaminergic system. In recent work, we developed a task that enabled the dissociation of the selection and execution components of an upper limb reaching movement. Our results demonstrated that both selection and execution are concommitently enhanced by immediate reward availability. Here, we investigate what the neural underpinnings of each component may be. To this end, we aimed to alter the cortical excitability of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and supplementary motor area using continuous theta-burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTBS) in a within-participant design (N = 23). Both cortical areas are involved in determining an individual's sensitivity to reward and physical effort, and we hypothesised that a change in excitability would result in the reward-driven effects on action selection and execution to be altered, respectively. To increase statistical power, participants were pre-selected based on their sensitivity to reward in the reaching task. While reward did lead to enhanced performance during the cTBS sessions and a control sham session, cTBS was ineffective in altering these effects. These results may provide evidence that other areas, such as the primary motor cortex or the premotor area, may drive the reward-based enhancements of motor performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1781-1793
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number7-8
Early online date9 Apr 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2020


  • Action execution
  • Action selection
  • Motor control
  • Reaching
  • Reward
  • Theta-burst TMS


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