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Motivational, cognitive and action goals are processed by distinct, topographically organized, corticostriatal circuits. We aimed to test whether processing in the striatum is under causal control by cortical regions in the human brain by investigating the effects of offline transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over distinct frontal regions associated with motivational, cognitive and action goal processing. Using a three-session counterbalanced within-subject crossover design, continuous theta burst stimulation was applied over the anterior prefrontal cortex (aPFC), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or premotor cortex, immediately after which participants (N = 27) performed a paradigm assessing reward anticipation (motivation), task (cognitive) switching, and response (action) switching. Using task-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we assessed the effects of stimulation on processing in distinct regions of the striatum. To account for non-specific effects, each session consisted of a baseline (no-TMS) and a stimulation (post-TMS) fMRI run. Stimulation of the aPFC tended to decrease reward-related processing in the caudate nucleus, while stimulation of the other sites was unsuccessful. A follow-up analysis revealed that aPFC stimulation also decreased processing in the putamen as a function of the interaction between all factors (reward, cognition and action), suggesting stimulation modulated the transfer of motivational information to cortico-striatal circuitry associated with action control.

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