Explicit and Implicit Reinforcement Learning Across the Psychosis Spectrum

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Abstract

Motivational and hedonic impairments are core features of a variety of types of psychopathology. An important aspect of motivational function is reinforcement learning (RL), including implicit (i.e., outside of conscious awareness) and explicit (i.e., including explicit representations about potential reward associations) learning, as well as both positive reinforcement (learning about actions that lead to reward) and punishment (learning to avoid actions that lead to loss). Here we present data from paradigms designed to assess both positive and negative components of both implicit and explicit RL, examine performance on each of these tasks among individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder with psychosis, and examine their relative relationships to specific symptom domains transdiagnostically. None of the diagnostic groups differed significantly from controls on the implicit RL tasks in either bias toward a rewarded response or bias away from a punished response. However, on the explicit RL task, both the individuals with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder performed significantly worse than controls, but the individuals with bipolar did not. Worse performance on the explicit RL task, but not the implicit RL task, was related to worse motivation and pleasure symptoms across all diagnostic categories. Performance on explicit RL, but not implicit RL, was related to working memory, which accounted for some of the diagnostic group differences. However, working memory did not account for the relationship of explicit RL to motivation and pleasure symptoms. These findings suggest transdiagnostic relationships across the spectrum of psychotic disorders between motivation and pleasure impairments and explicit RL.

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