Distinct neural circuits support incentivized inhibition

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The ability to inhibit responses under high stakes, or “incentivized inhibition,” is critical for adaptive impulse control. While previous research indicates that right ventrolateral prefrontal cortical (VLPFC) activity plays a key role in response inhibition, less research has addressed how incentives might influence this circuit. By combining a novel behavioral task, functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), and diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI), we targeted and characterized specific neural circuits that support incentivized inhibition. Behaviorally, large incentives enhanced responses to obtain money, but also reduced response inhibition. Functionally, activity in both right VLPFC and right anterior insula (AIns) predicted successful inhibition for high incentives. Structurally, characterization of a novel white-matter tract connecting the right AIns and VLPFC revealed an association of tract coherence with incentivized inhibition performance. Finally, individual differences in right VLPFC activity statistically mediated the association of right AIns-VLPFC tract coherence with incentivized inhibition performance. These multimodal findings bridge brain structure, brain function, and behavior to clarify how individuals can inhibit impulses, even in the face of high stakes.HighlightsMonetary incentives can reliably impair response inhibition performance.AIns and VLPFC functional activity improves, but NAcc activity impairs, incentivized inhibition.AIns-VLPFC and AIns-NAcc structural tract coherence is associated with improved incentivized inhibition.VLPFC functional activity mediates the association of AIns-VLPFC structural connectivity with incentivized inhibition.

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