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Poster D137

Neurocomputational Mechanisms Underlying the Subjective Cost of Exerting Self-Control

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Kleio Jiang1 (, Leone Lewis2, Konova Anna3, Glimcher Paul1, Raio Candace11; 1NYU Grossman School of Medicine, 2University of Texas—Austin, 3Rutgers University—New Brunswick

Failures of self-control are a major challenge to humans and can impose a range of costs on daily functioning. Emerging cognitive neuroscience work has demonstrated that exerting control is registered as cognitively costly. Here, we sought to characterize the neurocomputational mechanisms underlying how the perceived cost of exerting self-control is estimated in humans. Healthy dieters completed a self-control decision task outside (Study 1: N=60) or inside (Study 2: N=25) the fMRI scanner. On each trial, participants viewed a food image that varied on temptation intensity and reported their willingness-to-pay (WTP) to avoid the food depicted on each trial. We used computational modeling and neuroimaging to reveal how temptation changes the cost of self-control and identify the neural circuits that encode these costs. In Study 1, computational modeling revealed that multiplicative scaling best accounted for the observed increase in self-control costs with higher temptation (p<.001). In Study 2, brain activity was modeled with a parametric modulator of WTP value during the decision period. Higher bids yielded increased activation in medial orbitofrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (p<.01), pointing to a central role in these brain regions in estimating the perceived cost of self-control. Our findings reveal a computational mechanism through which temptation intensity increases the cognitive cost of using self-control and further suggests that exercising self-control engage a distinct neural circuit than those traditionally involved in implementing control. Understanding the neurocomptational basis of these cost estimates may provide neural targets to help improve the success of self-control strategies.

Topic Area: THINKING: Decision making


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