Theses Doctoral

Dissecting Motivation: Translational Approaches and Clinical Implications

Avlar, Billur

The question of how motivation affects our behavior is a long debated issue. Beyond pleasure and pain, motivation is closely related to cognitive functions and a key player in the self-regulation. The relationship between cognition and motivation was investigated from several angles, but a parsimonious explanation still awaits.
In order to create a framework to understand the interaction between cognition and motivation, I chose two aspects of this relationship. Executive functions are one of the most studied psychological concepts and their components closely resemble the units of motivational processes. Secondly, a specific neural signature, dopamine, was selected due to its involvement in both executive functions and motivational processes. To enable dissection of motivation, in this thesis, we used a translational and a multilevel approach.
In the first part, we focused on schizophrenia, which has a clinical presentation of cognitive (especially executive functions) and motivational deficits. Using a transgenic animal model mimicking the dopaminergic dysfunction related to schizophrenia, we manipulated motivation genetically, behaviorally, and pharmacologically and presented the changes in interval timing function.
Part 2 of this thesis consists of 3 studies performed in humans to delineate the role of motivational orientations as measured by regulatory focus and regulatory mode surveys. A probabilistic reversal task and an n-back task were used to explore different components of executive functions; namely maintenance and monitoring, updating the representations, switching, and behavioral inhibition. The results of these studies showed that specific motivational orientations and their interactions could predict cognitive performance.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Higgins, Edward Tory
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 5, 2016