Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Lieke Hofmans (Donders series 494)

3 June 2021

Promotor: prof. dr. R. Cools
Co-promotor: prof. dr. R.J. Verkes

Modulating motivation and cognitive control

How motivated we are to perform certain tasks, such as studying or following a recipe, is essential for our everyday cognitive performance. Many people with psychiatric or neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or ADHD, experience failures of cognitive control and motivation, as do healthy people from time to time. It is therefore important to gain more insight in why some individuals are more motivated than others and how this can be modulated.

Hofmans found that people’s motivation improved in response to methylphenidate (Ritalin®), a drug that modulates dopamine signaling in the brain and is often used to improve cognitive performance in both clinical and healthy populations. This improvement was strongest in individuals with already high levels of dopamine in a brain area called the striatum. These findings advance our understanding of why this drug has different effects in different individuals and underline the importance of personalized medicine.