Scientific publications

Brain correlates of the intrinsic subjective cost of effort in sedentary volunteers

Jun 24, 2016 | Magazine: Progress in Brain Research

Bernacer J (1), Martinez-Valbuena I (2), Martinez M (3), Pujol N (4), Luis E (3), Ramirez-Castillo D (2), Pastor MA (5).


One key aspect of motivation is the ability of agents to overcome excessive weighting of intrinsic subjective costs. This contribution aims to analyze the subjective cost of effort and assess its neural correlates in sedentary volunteers.

We recruited a sample of 57 subjects who underwent a decision-making task using a prospective, moderate, and sustained physical effort as devaluating factor.

Effort discounting followed a hyperbolic function, and individual discounting constants correlated with an indicator of sedentary lifestyle (global physical activity questionnaire; R=-0.302, P=0.033).

A subsample of 24 sedentary volunteers received a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan while performing a similar effort-discounting task. BOLD signal of a cluster located in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex correlated with the subjective value of the pair of options under consideration (Z>2.3, P<0.05; cluster corrected for multiple comparisons for the whole brain).

Furthermore, effort-related discounting of reward correlated with the signal of a cluster in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (Z>2.3, P<0.05; small volume cluster corrected for a region of interest including the ventral prefrontal cortex and striatum).

This study offers empirical data about the intrinsic subjective cost of effort and its neural correlates in sedentary individuals.

CITATION  Prog Brain Res. 2016;229:103-123. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2016.05.003