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  How accumulated real life stress experience and cognitive speed interact on decision-making processes

Friedel, E., Sebold, M., Kuitunen-Paul, S., Nebe, S., Veer, I. M., Zimmermann, U. S., et al. (2017). How accumulated real life stress experience and cognitive speed interact on decision-making processes. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11: 302. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00302.

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Friedel, Eva1, 2, Author
Sebold, Miriam1, 3, Author
Kuitunen-Paul, Sören4, Author
Nebe, Stephan4, 5, Author
Veer, Ilya M.1, Author
Zimmermann, Ulrich S.4, Author
Schlagenhauf, Florian1, 6, Author              
Smolka, Michael N.4, 5, Author
Rapp, Michael 3, Author
Walter, Henrik1, 2, Author
Heinz, Andreas1, 2, Author
1Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany, ou_persistent22              
2Biomedical Innovation Academy, Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Germany, ou_persistent22              
3Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Potsdam, Germany, ou_persistent22              
4Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, TU Dresden, Germany, ou_persistent22              
5Neuroimaging Center, TU Dresden, Germany, ou_persistent22              
6Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_634549              


Free keywords: Chronic stress; Cognitive speed; Decision making; Model-based learning; Model-free learning; Real-life events
 Abstract: Rationale: Advances in neurocomputational modeling suggest that valuation systems for goal-directed (deliberative) on one side, and habitual (automatic) decision-making on the other side may rely on distinct computational strategies for reinforcement learning, namely model-free vs. model-based learning. As a key theoretical difference, the model-based system strongly demands cognitive functions to plan actions prospectively based on an internal cognitive model of the environment, whereas valuation in the model-free system relies on rather simple learning rules from operant conditioning to retrospectively associate actions with their outcomes and is thus cognitively less demanding. Acute stress reactivity is known to impair model-based but not model-free choice behavior, with higher working memory capacity protecting the model-based system from acute stress. However, it is not clear which impact accumulated real life stress has on model-free and model-based decision systems and how this influence interacts with cognitive abilities. Methods: We used a sequential decision-making task distinguishing relative contributions of both learning strategies to choice behavior, the Social Readjustment Rating Scale questionnaire to assess accumulated real life stress, and the Digit Symbol Substitution Test to test cognitive speed in 95 healthy subjects. Results: Individuals reporting high stress exposure who had low cognitive speed showed reduced model-based but increased model-free behavioral control. In contrast, subjects exposed to accumulated real life stress with high cognitive speed displayed increased model-based performance but reduced model-free control. Conclusion: These findings suggest that accumulated real life stress exposure can enhance reliance on cognitive speed for model-based computations, which may ultimately protect the model-based system from the detrimental influences of accumulated real life stress. The combination of accumulated real life stress exposure and slower information processing capacities, however, might favor model-free strategies. Thus, the valence and preference of either system strongly depends on stressful experiences and individual cognitive capacities.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2017-02-272017-05-262017-06-08
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00302
PMC: PMC5462964
PMID: 28642696
 Degree: -



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Project name : -
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Funding program : BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program
Funding organization : Charite - University Medicine Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health
Project name : Lern- und Gewöhnungsprozesse als Prädiktoren für die Entwicklung und Aufrechterhaltung alkoholbezogener Störungen / FOR 1617
Grant ID : FR3572/1-1 ; WA 1539/7-1 ; HE2597/14-1 ; HE2597/14/-2 ; ZI1119/3-1 ; RA1047/2-1 ; RA1047/2-2
Funding program : -
Funding organization : German Research Foundation (DFG)

Source 1

Title: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
  Abbreviation : Front Hum Neurosci
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: Lausanne, Switzerland : Frontiers Research Foundation
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 11 Sequence Number: 302 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 1662-5161
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/1662-5161