Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) refers to a phenomenon whereby a classically conditioned stimulus (CS) impacts the motivational salience of instrumental behavior. We examined behavioral response patterns and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) based effective connectivity during an avoidance-based PIT task. Eleven participants (8 females; Mage = 28.2, SD = 2.8, range = 25–32 years) completed the task. Effective connectivity between a priori brain regions engaged during the task was determined using hemodynamic response function group iterative multiple model estimation (HRF-GIMME). Participants exhibited behavior that was suggestive of specific PIT, a CS previously associated with a reinforcing outcome increased instrumental responding directed at the same outcome. We did not find evidence for general PIT; a CS did not significantly increase instrumental responding towards a different but related outcome. Using HRF-GIMME, we recovered effective connectivity maps among corticostriatal circuits engaged during the task. Group-level paths revealed directional effects from left putamen to right insula and from right putamen to right cingulate. Importantly, a direct effect of specific PIT stimuli on blood–oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) activity in the left putamen was found. Results provide initial evidence of effective connectivity in key brain regions in an avoidance-based PIT task network. This study adds to the literature studying PIT effects in humans and employing GIMME models to understand how psychological phenomena are supported in the brain.
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