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The Cognitive Architecture of Anxiety-Like Behavioral Inhibition

Bach, DR; (2017) The Cognitive Architecture of Anxiety-Like Behavioral Inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance , 43 (1) pp. 18-29. 10.1037/xhp0000282. Green open access

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Abstract

The combination of reward and potential threat is termed approach/avoidance conflict and elicits specific behaviors, including passive avoidance and behavioral inhibition (BI). Anxiety-relieving drugs reduce these behaviors, and a rich psychological literature has addressed how personality traits dominated by BI predispose for anxiety disorders. Yet, a formal understanding of the cognitive inference and planning processes underlying anxiety-like BI is lacking. Here, we present and empirically test such formalization in the terminology of reinforcement learning. We capitalize on a human computer game in which participants collect sequentially appearing monetary tokens while under threat of virtual “predation.” First, we demonstrate that humans modulate BI according to experienced consequences. This suggests an instrumental implementation of BI generation rather than a Pavlovian mechanism that is agnostic about action outcomes. Second, an internal model that would make BI adaptive is expressed in an independent task that involves no threat. The existence of such internal model is a necessary condition to conclude that BI is under model-based control. These findings relate a plethora of human and nonhuman observations on BI to reinforcement learning theory, and crucially constrain the quest for its neural implementation.

Type: Article
Title: The Cognitive Architecture of Anxiety-Like Behavioral Inhibition
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/xhp0000282
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000282
Language: English
Additional information: This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher.
Keywords: Social Sciences, Psychology, Psychology, Experimental, approach/avoidance conflict, reinforcement learning theory, goal-comparator theory, behavioral inhibition, septo-hippocampal system, APPROACH-AVOIDANCE CONFLICT, BAYESIAN MODEL SELECTION, DECISION-MAKING, VENTRAL HIPPOCAMPUS, REWARD, REINFORCEMENT, RESPONSES, STIMULI, CORTEX
UCL classification: UCL
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 > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10086336
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