Everyday acts of self-control directed at, for example, cigarettes, food, and gambling, depend, in part, on the ability to stop action. While much is known about action stopping in humans, real world self-control, as in the above examples, has a strong valuational or motivational component. Yet there is scant research on how motor stopping interacts with value/motivation. Our core hypothesis, based on preliminary data, is that motor stopping can reduce value and motivation. We will test three possible mechanisms based on our work with three kinds of stopping systems.
Our first aim i s to test how rapid stopping concurrently reduces stimulus value. We hypothesize that rapid stopping recruits a global stopping system that inhibits all currently active representations, including value. Testing this requires measuring global inhibition (with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, TMS), imaging the stopping system and value representations (with fMRI and Electrocorticography) and, above all, showing that brain regions critical for stopping are causally important for reducing value (using a novel form of Direct Electrical Stimulation, in humans).
Our second aim i s to examine how motivational stimuli, which generate action tendencies, are suppressed. Our hypothesis is that this is done by the selective stopping system that is set up according to a subject's goals in working memory and which can be triggered by the motivational stimulus itself. We will test this by measuring the temporal dynamics of motor activation and suppression with TMS, and using fMRI to examine the putative underlying fronto-striatal system.
Our third aim i s to leverage automatic stopping to reduce stimulus value and motivation. We hypothesize that repeated stopping (via training) generates stimulus stop-tag, so that when that stimulus occurs in the future it reactivates the stopping system (automatically), which then reduces stimulus value and motivation.

Public Health Relevance

These experiments will provide mechanistic insight into how stopping reduces stimulus value and motivation. This is highly relevant for understanding and treating disorders of human self-control characterized by stimulus over-valuation or excessive motivation such as substance use disorders, over-eating and pathological gambling. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Substance dependence, over-eating, gambling and many other disorders are partly related to over- valuation of stimuli or excessive motivational drive. Our hypothesis is that stimulus value and motivational drive can be reduced through the brain's motor stopping system. We will test this hypothesis using neuroscience methods in humans that can examine the activity of brain circuits for stopping and value/motivation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Volman, Susan
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University of California San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
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Wessel, Jan R; Aron, Adam R (2017) On the Globality of Motor Suppression: Unexpected Events and Their Influence on Behavior and Cognition. Neuron 93:259-280
Aron, Adam R; Herz, Damian M; Brown, Peter et al. (2016) Frontosubthalamic Circuits for Control of Action and Cognition. J Neurosci 36:11489-11495
Wessel, Jan R; Jenkinson, Ned; Brittain, John-Stuart et al. (2016) Surprise disrupts cognition via a fronto-basal ganglia suppressive mechanism. Nat Commun 7:11195
Freeman, Scott M; Aron, Adam R (2016) Withholding a Reward-driven Action: Studies of the Rise and Fall of Motor Activation and the Effect of Cognitive Depletion. J Cogn Neurosci 28:237-51
Freeman, Scott M; Itthipuripat, Sirawaj; Aron, Adam R (2016) High Working Memory Load Increases Intracortical Inhibition in Primary Motor Cortex and Diminishes the Motor Affordance Effect. J Neurosci 36:5544-55
Wessel, Jan R; Aron, Adam R (2015) It's not too late: the onset of the frontocentral P3 indexes successful response inhibition in the stop-signal paradigm. Psychophysiology 52:472-80
Wessel, Jan R; Tonnesen, Alexandra L; Aron, Adam R (2015) Stimulus devaluation induced by action stopping is greater for explicit value representations. Front Psychol 6:1640
Majid, D S Adnan; Lewis, Christina; Aron, Adam R (2015) Training voluntary motor suppression with real-time feedback of motor evoked potentials. J Neurophysiol 113:3446-52
Aron, Adam R; Cai, Weidong; Badre, David et al. (2015) Evidence Supports Specific Braking Function for Inferior PFC. Trends Cogn Sci 19:711-2
Freeman, Scott M; Alvernaz, Dominic; Tonnesen, Alexandra et al. (2015) Suppressing a motivationally-triggered action tendency engages a response control mechanism that prevents future provocation. Neuropsychologia 68:218-31

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