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Soutschek, Alexander ORCID: 0000-0001-8438-7721; Tobler, Philippe N. (2020): Causal role of lateral prefrontal cortex in mental effort and fatigue. In: Human Brain Mapping, Vol. 41, No. 16: pp. 4630-4640
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Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is well‐known for its role in exerting mental work, however the contribution of DLPFC for deciding whether or not to engage in effort remains unknown. Here, we assessed the causal role of DLPFC in effort‐based decision making. We disrupted functioning of DLPFC with noninvasive brain stimulation before participants repeatedly decided whether to exert mental effort in a working memory task. We found the same DLPFC subregion involved in mental effort exertion to influence also effort‐based decisions: First, it enhanced effort discounting, suggesting that DLPFC may signal the capacity to successfully deal with effort demands. Second, a novel computational model integrating the costs of enduring effort into the effort‐based decision process revealed that DLPFC disruption reduced fatigue after accumulated effort exertion, linking DLPFC activation with fatigue. Together, our findings indicate that in effort‐based decisions DLPFC represents the capacity to exert mental effort and the updating of this information with enduring time‐on‐task, informing theoretical accounts on the role of DLPFC in the motivation to exert mental effort and the fatigue arising from it.