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COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE Urges for food and money spill over into motor

Urges for food and money spill over into motor
system excitability before action is taken
Nitin Gupta and Adam R. Aron
Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA, USA
Keywords: motivation, motor-evoked potential, movement, transcranial magnetic stimulation
Much human behavior is driven by urges. Yet research into urges is hampered by a paucity of tools to objectively index their
strength, timing and control. Here we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and concurrent electromyography to examine
whether urges for food and money are detectable via motor system excitability. In Experiment 1, we used a naturalistic food
paradigm to show that food items that were most strongly wanted elicited the largest motor excitability, even before participants
knew which response to make to get them. In Experiment 2a, we replicated the results using money motor excitability was greater
for larger monetary amounts. In Experiment 2b we show that monetary amount does not modulate motor excitability when
participants simply observe, without having to take action. As the chief effect occurred prior to the subject knowing which motor
response to make, it is not merely related to response preparation, and as the effect was present only when action was required, it is
not merely related to increased arousal. Instead, the increased motor excitability likely indexes the degree of motivation a subject
has to perform an action. Thus, we have used TMS to demonstrate that urges for food and money `spill over' into the motor system.
This is likely mediated by interactions between the limbic system (including the orbital frontal cortex) and the motor system, probably
at the level of the basal ganglia. Implications are discussed for theories of embodied cognition and for methodological progress in
studying urge control.


Source: Aron, Adam - Department of Psychology, University of California at San Diego


Collections: Biology and Medicine