Are all behavioral reward benefits created equally? An EEG-fMRI study.


Reward consistently boosts performance in cognitive tasks. Although many different reward manipulations exist, systematic comparisons are lacking. Reward effects on cognitive control are usually studied using monetary incentive delay (MID; cue-related reward information) or stimulus-reward association (SRA; target-related reward information) tasks. While for MID tasks, evidence clearly implicates reward-triggered global increases in proactive control, it is unclear how reward effects arise in SRA tasks, and in how far such mechanisms overlap during task preparation and target processing. Here, we address these questions with simultaneous EEG-fMRI using a Stroop task with four different block types. In addition to MID and SRA blocks, we used an SRA-task modification with reward-irrelevant cues (C-SRA) and regular reward-neutral Stroop-task blocks. Behaviorally, we observed superior performance for all reward conditions compared to Neutral, and more pronounced reward effects in the SRA and C-SRA blocks, compared to MID blocks. The fMRI data showed similar reward effects in value-related areas for events that signaled reward availability (MID cues and (C-)SRA targets), and comparable reward modulations in cognitive-control regions for all targets regardless of block type. This result pattern was echoed by the EEG data, showing clear markers of valuation and cognitive control, which only differed during task preparation, whereas reward-related modulations during target processing were again comparable across block types. Yet, considering only cue-related fMRI data, C-SRA cues triggered preparatory control processes beyond reward-unrelated MID cues, without simultaneous modulations in typical reward areas, implicating enhanced task preparation that is not directly driven by a concurrent neural reward-anticipation response

NeuroImage, 116829