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Altered learning under uncertainty in unmedicated mood and anxiety disorders

Aylward, J; Valton, V; Ahn, W-Y; Bond, RL; Dayan, P; Roiser, JP; Robinson, OJ; (2019) Altered learning under uncertainty in unmedicated mood and anxiety disorders. Nature Human Behaviour , 3 pp. 1116-1123. 10.1038/s41562-019-0628-0. Green open access

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Abstract

Anxiety is characterized by altered responses under uncertain conditions, but the precise mechanism by which uncertainty changes the behaviour of anxious individuals is unclear. Here we probe the computational basis of learning under uncertainty in healthy individuals and individuals suffering from a mix of mood and anxiety disorders. Participants were asked to choose between four competing slot machines with fluctuating reward and punishment outcomes during safety and stress. We predicted that anxious individuals under stress would learn faster about punishments and exhibit choices that were more affected by those punishments, thus formalizing our predictions as parameters in reinforcement learning accounts of behaviour. Overall, the data suggest that anxious individuals are quicker to update their behaviour in response to negative outcomes (increased punishment learning rates). When treating anxiety, it may therefore be more fruitful to encourage anxious individuals to integrate information over longer horizons when bad things happen, rather than try to blunt their responses to negative outcomes.

Type: Article
Title: Altered learning under uncertainty in unmedicated mood and anxiety disorders
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0628-0
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0628-0
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Anxiety, Depression, Human behaviour, Learning algorithms
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neurosci Unit
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10076913
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