Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Working memory and reward processing are often thought to be separate, unrelated processes. However, most daily activities involve integrating these two types of information, and the two processes rarely, if ever, occur in isolation. Here, we show that working memory and reward interact in a task-dependent manner and that this task-dependent interaction involves modulation of the pFC by the ventral striatum. Specifically, BOLD signal during gains relative to losses in the ventral striatum and pFC was associated not only with enhanced distractor resistance but also with impairment in the ability to update working memory representations. Furthermore, the effect of reward on working memory was accompanied by differential coupling between the ventral striatum and ignore-related regions in the pFC. Together, these data demonstrate that reward-related signals modulate the balance between cognitive stability and cognitive flexibility by altering functional coupling between the ventral striatum and the pFC.