A neurocomputational account of how inflammation enhances sensitivity to punishments versus rewards

Harrison, Neil A, Voon, Valerie, Cercignani, Mara, Cooper, Ella A, Pessiglione, Mathias and Critchley, Hugo D (2016) A neurocomputational account of how inflammation enhances sensitivity to punishments versus rewards. Biological Psychiatry, 80 (1). pp. 73-81. ISSN 0006-3223

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Inflammation rapidly impairs mood and cognition and, when severe, can appear indistinguishable
from major depression. These sickness responses are characterized by an acute reorientation of motivational state;
pleasurable activities are avoided, and sensitivity to negative stimuli is enhanced. However, it remains unclear how
these rapid shifts in behavior are mediated within the brain.
METHODS: Here, we combined computational modeling of choice behavior, experimentally induced inflammation,
and functional brain imaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to describe these mechanisms. Using a
double-blind, randomized crossover study design, 24 healthy volunteers completed a probabilistic instrumental
learning task on two separate occasions, one 3 hours after typhoid vaccination and one 3 hours after saline (placebo)
injection. Participants learned to select high probability reward (win £1) and avoid high probability punishment (lose
£1) stimuli. An action-value learning algorithm was fit to the observed behavior, then used within functional magnetic
resonance imaging analyses to identify neural coding of prediction error signals driving motivational learning.
RESULTS: Inflammation acutely biased behavior, enhancing punishment compared with reward sensitivity, through
distinct actions on neural representations of reward and punishment prediction errors within the ventral striatum and
anterior insula. Consequently, choice options leading to potential rewards were less behaviorally attractive, and
those leading to punishments were more aversive.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate the neural mediation of a rapid, state-dependent reorientation of reward
versus punishment sensitivity during inflammation. This mechanism may aid the adaptive reallocation of metabolic
resources during acute sickness but might also account for m

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Neuroscience
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Depositing User: Jonathan Williams
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2015 12:28
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2017 02:43
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/56627

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