Trait approach and avoidance motivation: Lateralized neural activity associated with executive function

Jeffrey M. Spielberg, Gregory A. Miller, Anna S. Engels, John D. Herrington, Bradley P. Sutton, Marie T. Banich, Wendy Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivation and executive function are both necessary for the completion of goal-directed behavior. Research investigating the manner in which these processes interact is beginning to emerge and has implicated middle frontal gyrus (MFG) as a site of interaction for relevant neural mechanisms. However, this research has focused on state motivation, and it has not examined functional lateralization. The present study examined the impact of trait levels of approach and avoidance motivation on neural processes associated with executive function. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was conducted while participants performed a color-word Stroop task. Analyses identified brain regions in which trait approach and avoidance motivation (measured by questionnaires) moderated activation associated with executive control. Approach was hypothesized to be associated with left-lateralized MFG activation, whereas avoidance was hypothesized to be associated with right-lateralized MFG activation. Results supported both hypotheses. Present findings implicate areas of middle frontal gyrus in top-down control to guide behavior in accordance with motivational goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-670
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Approach
  • Avoidance
  • Executive function
  • FMRI
  • Laterality
  • Motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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