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Value-based decision making and alcohol use disorder


Nebe, Stephan. Value-based decision making and alcohol use disorder. 2018, Technische Universität Dresden, Fakultät Psychologie am Bereich Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften.

Abstract

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a widespread mental disease denoted by chronic alcohol use despite significant negative consequences for a person’s life. It affected more than 14 million persons in Europe alone and accounted for more than 5% of deaths worldwide in 2011-2012. Understanding the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms driving the development and maintenance of pathological alcohol use is key to conceptualizing new programs for prevention and therapy of AUD. There has been a variety of etiological models trying to describe and relate these mechanisms. Lately, the view of AUD as a disorder of learning and decision making has received much support proposing dual systems to be at work in AUD – one system being deliberate, forward-planning, and goal-directed and the other one reflexive, automatic, and habitual. Both systems supposedly work in parallel in a framework of value-based decision making and their balance can be flexibly adjusted in healthy agents, while a progressive imbalance favoring habitual over goal-directed choice strategies is assumed in AUD. This imbalance has been theoretically associated to neural adaptations to chronic alcohol use in corticostriatal pathways involved in reward processing, especially in ventral striatum. However, these theoretical models are grounded strongly on animal research while empirical research in the human domain remains rather sparse and inconclusive. Furthermore, alterations in value-based decision-making processes and their neural implementation might not only result from prolonged alcohol misuse but may also represent premorbid interindividual differences posing a risk factor for the development of AUD.Therefore, I here present three studies investigating the relation of alcohol use with the balance between goal-directed and habitual decision systems and with parameters modulating option valuation processes of these systems, namely delay, risk, and valence of option outcomes. To separate the investigation of these decision processes as predisposing risk for or consequence of alcohol use, two samples were examined: one sample of 201 eighteen-year-old men being neither abstinent from nor dependent on alcohol as well as one sample of 114 AUD patients in detoxification treatment and 98 control participants matched for age, sex, educational background, and smoking status. Both samples had a baseline assessment of several behavioral tasks, questionnaires, and neuropsychological testing and were followed-up over one year to examine drinking trajectories in the sample of young men and relapse in detoxified patients. The behavioral tasks included a sequential choice task using model-free and model-based reinforcement learning as operationalization of habitual and goal-directed decision making, respectively, during functional magnetic resonance imaging and four tasks probing participants’ delay discounting, probability discounting for gains and losses, and loss aversion. Study 1 presents the cross-sectional analysis of the sequential choice task in relation to baseline drinking behavior of the young-adult sample. These analyses did not reveal an association between non-pathological alcohol use and habitual and goal-directed control on neither a behavioral nor neural level except for one exploratory finding of increased BOLD responses to model-free habitual learning signals in participants with earlier onset of drinking. Study 2 examined the same task in AUD patients compared to control participants showing no difference in behavioral control or neural correlates between those groups. However, prospectively relapsing AUD patients showed lower BOLD responses associated to model-based goal-directed control than abstaining patients and control participants. Additionally, the interaction of goal-directed control and positive expectancies of alcohol effects discriminated subsequently relapsing and abstaining patients revealing an increased risk of relapse for those patients who showed higher levels of goal-directed control and low alcohol expectancies or low levels of goal-directedness and high expectancies. Study 3 examined modulating features of goal-directed and habitual option valuation – delay, risk, and valence of options – in association to alcohol use in the young-adult sample and AUD status in the sample of patients and matched control participants on a cross-sectional as well as longitudinal level. This study revealed no relation of delay, risk, and loss aversion with current alcohol use and consumption one year later in the young men. In contrast, AUD patients showed systematically more impulsive choice behavior than control participants in all four tasks: a higher preference for immediate rewards, more risky choices when facing gains and less when facing losses, and lower loss aversion. Furthermore, a general tendency to overestimate the probability of uncertain losses could predict relapse risk over the following year in AUD patients. Taken together, these results do not support the hypothesis that mechanisms of value-based decision making might be predisposing risk factors for alcohol consumption. The findings for patients already suffering from AUD are mixed: while choice biases regarding delays, risks, and valence of option outcomes seem to be altered systematically in AUD, there was no indication of an imbalance of habitual and goal-directed control. These findings challenge the assumption of a generalized outcome-unspecific shift of behavioral control from goal-directed to habitual strategies during the development of AUD and point towards several possible future avenues of research to modify or extend the theoretical model.

Abstract

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a widespread mental disease denoted by chronic alcohol use despite significant negative consequences for a person’s life. It affected more than 14 million persons in Europe alone and accounted for more than 5% of deaths worldwide in 2011-2012. Understanding the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms driving the development and maintenance of pathological alcohol use is key to conceptualizing new programs for prevention and therapy of AUD. There has been a variety of etiological models trying to describe and relate these mechanisms. Lately, the view of AUD as a disorder of learning and decision making has received much support proposing dual systems to be at work in AUD – one system being deliberate, forward-planning, and goal-directed and the other one reflexive, automatic, and habitual. Both systems supposedly work in parallel in a framework of value-based decision making and their balance can be flexibly adjusted in healthy agents, while a progressive imbalance favoring habitual over goal-directed choice strategies is assumed in AUD. This imbalance has been theoretically associated to neural adaptations to chronic alcohol use in corticostriatal pathways involved in reward processing, especially in ventral striatum. However, these theoretical models are grounded strongly on animal research while empirical research in the human domain remains rather sparse and inconclusive. Furthermore, alterations in value-based decision-making processes and their neural implementation might not only result from prolonged alcohol misuse but may also represent premorbid interindividual differences posing a risk factor for the development of AUD.Therefore, I here present three studies investigating the relation of alcohol use with the balance between goal-directed and habitual decision systems and with parameters modulating option valuation processes of these systems, namely delay, risk, and valence of option outcomes. To separate the investigation of these decision processes as predisposing risk for or consequence of alcohol use, two samples were examined: one sample of 201 eighteen-year-old men being neither abstinent from nor dependent on alcohol as well as one sample of 114 AUD patients in detoxification treatment and 98 control participants matched for age, sex, educational background, and smoking status. Both samples had a baseline assessment of several behavioral tasks, questionnaires, and neuropsychological testing and were followed-up over one year to examine drinking trajectories in the sample of young men and relapse in detoxified patients. The behavioral tasks included a sequential choice task using model-free and model-based reinforcement learning as operationalization of habitual and goal-directed decision making, respectively, during functional magnetic resonance imaging and four tasks probing participants’ delay discounting, probability discounting for gains and losses, and loss aversion. Study 1 presents the cross-sectional analysis of the sequential choice task in relation to baseline drinking behavior of the young-adult sample. These analyses did not reveal an association between non-pathological alcohol use and habitual and goal-directed control on neither a behavioral nor neural level except for one exploratory finding of increased BOLD responses to model-free habitual learning signals in participants with earlier onset of drinking. Study 2 examined the same task in AUD patients compared to control participants showing no difference in behavioral control or neural correlates between those groups. However, prospectively relapsing AUD patients showed lower BOLD responses associated to model-based goal-directed control than abstaining patients and control participants. Additionally, the interaction of goal-directed control and positive expectancies of alcohol effects discriminated subsequently relapsing and abstaining patients revealing an increased risk of relapse for those patients who showed higher levels of goal-directed control and low alcohol expectancies or low levels of goal-directedness and high expectancies. Study 3 examined modulating features of goal-directed and habitual option valuation – delay, risk, and valence of options – in association to alcohol use in the young-adult sample and AUD status in the sample of patients and matched control participants on a cross-sectional as well as longitudinal level. This study revealed no relation of delay, risk, and loss aversion with current alcohol use and consumption one year later in the young men. In contrast, AUD patients showed systematically more impulsive choice behavior than control participants in all four tasks: a higher preference for immediate rewards, more risky choices when facing gains and less when facing losses, and lower loss aversion. Furthermore, a general tendency to overestimate the probability of uncertain losses could predict relapse risk over the following year in AUD patients. Taken together, these results do not support the hypothesis that mechanisms of value-based decision making might be predisposing risk factors for alcohol consumption. The findings for patients already suffering from AUD are mixed: while choice biases regarding delays, risks, and valence of option outcomes seem to be altered systematically in AUD, there was no indication of an imbalance of habitual and goal-directed control. These findings challenge the assumption of a generalized outcome-unspecific shift of behavioral control from goal-directed to habitual strategies during the development of AUD and point towards several possible future avenues of research to modify or extend the theoretical model.

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Additional indexing

Other titles:Wertbasierte Entscheidungsprozesse und Alkoholkonsumstörungen
Item Type:Dissertation (monographical)
Referees:Smolka Michael N, Li Shu-Chen
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:02 Aug 2019 14:40
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:21
Number of Pages:173
OA Status:Green

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