Motor cortical thickness is related to effort-based decision-making in humans

Amith Umesh, Kwame S. Kutte, Patrick S. Hogan, J. Tilak Ratnanather, Vikram S. Chib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although motor cortex is integral in driving physical exertion, how its inherent properties influence decisions to exert is unknown. In this study, we examined how anatomical properties of motor cortex are related to participants' subjective valuations of effort and their decisions to exert effort. We used computational modeling to characterize participants' subjective valuation of physical effort during an effort-based decision-making task in which they made choices about exerting different levels of hand-grip exertion. We also acquired structural MRI data from these participants and extracted anatomical measures of each individual's hand knob, the region of motor cortex recruited during hand-grip exertion. We found that individual participants' cortical thickness of hand knob was associated with their effort-based decisions regarding hand exertion. These data provide evidence that the anatomy of an individual's motor cortex is an important factor in decisions to engage in physical activity. NEW & NOTEWORTHY How effortful a task feels is an integral aspect of human decision-making that influences choices to engage in physical activity. We show that properties of motor cortex (the brain region responsible for physical exertion) are related to assessments of effort and decisions to exert. These findings provide a link between the anatomical properties of motor cortex and the cognitive function of effort-based choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2373-2381
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Decision-making
  • Effort
  • Motor cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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