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Background: Adolescence is characterized by increased risk-taking and sensation seeking, presumably brought about by developmental changes within reward-mediating brain circuits. A better understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying reward-seeking during adolescence can have critical implications for the development of strategies to enhance adolescent performance in potentially dangerous situations. Yet little research has investigated the influence of age on the modulation of behavior by incentives with neuroscience-based methods Methods: A monetary reward antisaccade task (the RST) was used with 23 healthy adolescents and 30 healthy adults. Performance accuracy, latency and peak velocity of saccade responses (prosaccades and antisaccades) were analyzed. Results: Performance accuracy across all groups was improved by incentives (obtain reward, avoid punishment) for both, prosaccades and antisaccades. However, modulation of antisaccade errors (direction errors) by incentives differed between groups: adolescents modulated saccade latency and peak velocity depending on contingencies, with incentives aligning their performance to that of adults; adults did not show a modulation by incentives. Conclusions: These findings suggest that incentives modulate a global measure of performance (percent direction errors) in adults and adolescents, and exert a more powerful influence on the control of incorrect motor responses in adolescents than in adults. These findings suggest that this task can be used in neuroimaging studies as a probe of the influence of incentives on cognitive control from a developmental perspective as well as in health and disease.


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Jazbec, S., Hardin, M.G., Schroth, E., McClure, E.B., Pine, D.S., Ernst, M. (2006). Age-related influence of contingencies on a saccade task. Experimental Brain Research, 174(4), 754-762. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-006-0520-9

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