Emotionally aversive cues suppress neural systems underlying optimal learning in socially anxious individuals
until further notice
Number of pages
SourceThe Journal of Neuroscience, 39, 8, (2019), pp. 1445-1456
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Affective Neuroscience
SW OZ BSI KLP
PI Group Motivational & Cognitive Control
SW OZ DCC CO
PI Group Intention & Action
The Journal of Neuroscience
Subject111 000 Intention & Action; 170 000 Motivational & Cognitive Control; 230 Affective Neuroscience; Action, intention, and motor control; All institutes and research themes of the Radboud University Medical Center; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment; Radboudumc 13: Stress-related disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Learning and decision-making are modulated by socio-emotional processing and such modulation is implicated in clinically-relevant personality traits of social anxiety. The present study elucidates the computational and neural mechanisms by which emotionally aversive cues disrupt learning in socially anxious human individuals. Healthy volunteers with low or high trait social anxiety performed a reversal learning task requiring learning actions in response to angry or happy face cues. Choice data were best captured by a computational model in which learning rate was adjusted according to the history of surprises. High trait socially anxious individuals employed a less dynamic strategy for adjusting their learning rate in trials started with angry face cues and unlike the low social anxiety group, their dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) activity did not covary with the learning rate. Our results demonstrate that trait social anxiety is accompanied by disruption of optimal learning and dACC activity in threatening situations. Significance statement: Social anxiety is known to influence a broad range of cognitive functions. This study tests whether and how social anxiety affects human value-based learning as a function of uncertainty in the learning environment. The findings indicate that, in a threatening context evoked by an angry face, socially anxious individuals fail to benefit from a stable learning environment with highly predictable stimulus-response-outcome associations. Under those circumstances, socially anxious individuals failed to use their dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a region known to adjust learning rate to environmental uncertainty. These findings open the way to modify neurobiological mechanisms of maladaptive learning in anxiety and depressive disorders.
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