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Acetylcholine and noradrenaline enhance foraging optimality in humans


Sidorenko, Nick; Chung, Hui-Kuan; Grueschow, Marcus; Quednow, Boris B; Hayward-Könnecke, Helen; Jetter, Alexander; Tobler, Philippe N (2023). Acetylcholine and noradrenaline enhance foraging optimality in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120(36):2305596120.

Abstract

Foraging theory prescribes when optimal foragers should leave the current option for more rewarding alternatives. Actual foragers often exploit options longer than prescribed by the theory, but it is unclear how this foraging suboptimality arises. We investigated whether the upregulation of cholinergic, noradrenergic, and dopaminergic systems increases foraging optimality. In a double-blind, between-subject design, participants (N = 160) received placebo, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist nicotine, a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor reboxetine, or a preferential dopamine reuptake inhibitor
methylphenidate, and played the role of a farmer who collected milk from patches with different yield. Across all groups, participants on average overharvested. While methylphenidate had no effects on this bias, nicotine, and to some extent also reboxetine, significantly reduced deviation from foraging optimality, which resulted in better performance compared to placebo. Concurring with amplified goal-directedness and excluding heuristic explanations, nicotine independently also improved trial initiation and time perception. Our findings elucidate the neurochemical basis of behavioral flexibility and decision optimality and open unique perspectives on psychiatric disorders affecting these functions.

Abstract

Foraging theory prescribes when optimal foragers should leave the current option for more rewarding alternatives. Actual foragers often exploit options longer than prescribed by the theory, but it is unclear how this foraging suboptimality arises. We investigated whether the upregulation of cholinergic, noradrenergic, and dopaminergic systems increases foraging optimality. In a double-blind, between-subject design, participants (N = 160) received placebo, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist nicotine, a noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor reboxetine, or a preferential dopamine reuptake inhibitor
methylphenidate, and played the role of a farmer who collected milk from patches with different yield. Across all groups, participants on average overharvested. While methylphenidate had no effects on this bias, nicotine, and to some extent also reboxetine, significantly reduced deviation from foraging optimality, which resulted in better performance compared to placebo. Concurring with amplified goal-directedness and excluding heuristic explanations, nicotine independently also improved trial initiation and time perception. Our findings elucidate the neurochemical basis of behavioral flexibility and decision optimality and open unique perspectives on psychiatric disorders affecting these functions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Healthy Longevity Center
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
330 Economics
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary, exploration, marginal value theorem, value-based decision-making, stay-or-switch, cognitive enhancers
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:5 September 2023
Deposited On:01 Dec 2023 14:17
Last Modified:30 May 2024 01:49
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2305596120
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:24176
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)