Acute stress impairs reward learning in men

Carvalheiro, J. , Conceição, V. A., Mesquita, A. and Seara-Cardoso, A. (2021) Acute stress impairs reward learning in men. Brain and Cognition, 147, 105657. (doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2020.105657) (PMID:33341656)

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Acute stress is ubiquitous in everyday life, but the extent to which acute stress affects how people learn from the outcomes of their choices is still poorly understood. Here, we investigate how acute stress impacts reward and punishment learning in men using a reinforcement-learning task. Sixty-two male participants performed the task whilst under stress and control conditions. We observed that acute stress impaired participants’ choice performance towards monetary gains, but not losses. To unravel the mechanism(s) underlying such impairment, we fitted a reinforcement-learning model to participants’ trial-by-trial choices. Computational modeling indicated that under acute stress participants learned more slowly from positive prediction errors — when the outcomes were better than expected — consistent with stress-induced dopamine disruptions. Such mechanistic understanding of how acute stress impairs reward learning is particularly important given the pervasiveness of stress in our daily life and the impact that stress can have on our wellbeing and mental health.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was supported by grants from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) to A. Seara-Cardoso [PTDC/MHC-PCN/2296/2014, co-financed by FEDER through COMPETE2020 under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016747)] and to A. Mesquita (IF/00750/2015). J. Carvalheiro was supported by a FCT PhD fellowship (PD/BD/128467/2017). This study was conducted at the Psychology Research Centre (PSI/01662), School of Psychology, University of Minho, supported by FCT and the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education (UID/PSI/01662/2019), through national funds (PIDDAC).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Carvalheiro, Dr Joana
Authors: Carvalheiro, J., Conceição, V. A., Mesquita, A., and Seara-Cardoso, A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Brain and Cognition
ISSN (Online):1090-2147
Published Online:17 December 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in Brain and Cognition 147: 105657
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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