Delay Discounting of Losses and Rewards in Alcohol Use Disorder: The Effect of Working Memory Load

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Alcohol use disorder (AUD) has been consistently associated with elevated discounting rates for delayed rewards. However, there are few studies of delay discounting of losses in those with AUD even though their drinking behavior suggests that they discount future negative consequences of excessive drinking. The current study extends this literature by examining delay discounting of rewards and losses in a sample of those with AUD (n = 78) and healthy controls (n = 51) in 2 conditions: working memory (WM) load and no WM load. The AUD group discounted both rewards and losses at higher rates than the control group. The WM load increased discounting rates in the reward task but not in the loss task. There was also a significant Group × WM load interaction; the WM load increased discounting in control participants but not in AUD participants. These findings suggest that AUD is associated with a general propensity to discount future incentivized events regardless of nature of the incentive.

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