Approach-avoidance decisions under threat: The role of autonomic psychophysiological states
Number of pages
SourceFrontiers in Neuroscience, 15, (2021), article 353
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Affective Neuroscience
SW OZ BSI KLP
SW OZ DCC SMN
Frontiers in Neuroscience
Subject230 Affective Neuroscience; Action, intention, and motor control; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Acutely challenging or threatening situations frequently require approach-avoidance decisions. Acute threat triggers fast autonomic changes that prepare the body to freeze, fight or flee. However, such autonomic changes may also influence subsequent instrumental approach-avoidance decisions. Since defensive bodily states are often not considered in value-based decision-making models, it remains unclear how they influence the decision-making process. Here, we aim to bridge this gap by discussing the existing literature on the potential role of threat-induced bodily states on decision making and provide a new neurocomputational framework explaining how these effects can facilitate or bias approach-avoid decisions under threat. Theoretical accounts have stated that threat-induced parasympathetic activity is involved in information gathering and decision making. Parasympathetic dominance over sympathetic activity is particularly seen during threat-anticipatory freezing, an evolutionarily conserved response to threat demonstrated across species and characterized by immobility and bradycardia. Although this state of freezing has been linked to altered information processing and action preparation, a full theoretical treatment of the interactions with value-based decision making has not yet been achieved. Our neural framework, which we term the Threat State/Value Integration (TSI) Model, will illustrate how threat-induced bodily states may impact valuation of competing incentives at three stages of the decision-making process, namely at threat evaluation, integration of rewards and threats, and action initiation. Additionally, because altered parasympathetic activity and decision biases have been shown in anxious populations, we will end with discussing how biases in this system can lead to characteristic patterns of avoidance seen in anxiety-related disorders, motivating future pre-clinical and clinical research.
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