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Depression is associated with reduced outcome sensitivity in a dual valence, magnitude learning task

Pulcu, Erdem; Lin, Wanjun; Han, Sungwon; Browning, Michael; (2023) Depression is associated with reduced outcome sensitivity in a dual valence, magnitude learning task. Psychological Medicine pp. 1-6. 10.1017/S0033291723002520. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Learning from rewarded and punished choices is perturbed in depressed patients, suggesting that abnormal reinforcement learning may be a cognitive mechanism of the illness. However, previous studies have disagreed about whether this behavior is produced by alterations in the rate of learning or sensitivity to experienced outcomes. This previous work has generally assessed learning in response to binary outcomes of one valence, rather than to both rewarding and punishing continuous outcomes. METHODS: A novel drifting reward and punishment magnitude reinforcement-learning task was administered to patients with current (n = 40) and remitted depression (n = 39), and healthy volunteers (n = 40) to capture potential differences in learning behavior. Standard questionnaires were administered to measure self-reported depressive symptom severity, trait and state anxiety and level of anhedonic symptoms. RESULTS: Our findings demonstrate that patients with current depression adjust their learning behaviors to a lesser degree in response to trial-by-trial variations in reward and loss magnitudes than the other groups. Computational modeling revealed that this behavioral signature of current depressive state is better accounted for by reduced reward and punishment sensitivity (all p < 0.031), rather than a change in learning rate (p = 0.708). However, between-group differences were not related to self-reported symptom severity or comorbid anxiety disorders in the current depression group. CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that current depression is associated with reduced outcome sensitivity rather than altered learning rate. Previous findings reported in this domain mainly from binary learning tasks seem to generalize to learning from continuous outcomes.

Type: Article
Title: Depression is associated with reduced outcome sensitivity in a dual valence, magnitude learning task
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S0033291723002520
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291723002520
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited. Droit d'auteur Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press
Keywords: Affective bias, computational modeling, depression, reinforcement learning, reward sensitivity
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/10177327
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