Computational Psychiatry & Decision-making

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  • doi pdf Model-based and model-free control predicts alcohol consumption developmental trajectory in young adults - a three-year prospective study
  • Chen H, Belanger MJ, Mojtahedzadeh N, Nebe S, Kuitunen-Paul S, Sebold M, Garbusow M, Huys QJM, Heinz A, Rapp MA and Smolka MN
  • Biological Psychiatry (2021) 89(10): 980-989
  • Background: A shift from goal-directed toward habitual control has been associated with alcohol dependence. Whether such a shift predisposes pathological drinking is not yet clear. We investigated how goal-directed and habitual control at age 18 predict alcohol use trajectories over the course of three years. Methods: Goal-directed and habitual control, as informed by model-based and model-free learning, were assessed with a two-step sequential decision-making task during fMRI in 146 healthy 18-year-old male adults. Two key drinking variables were used to model the three-year alcohol use developmental trajectory: a consumption score from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C; assessed every six months) and a binge drinking score (gram alcohol/occasion; assessed every year). We applied a latent growth curve model to examine how model-based and model-free control predicted the drinking trajectory. Results: The drinking behavior was best characterized by a linear trajectory. The model-based behavioral control was negatively associated with the development of the binge drinking score; the model-free reward prediction error (RPE) BOLD signals in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum predicted a higher starting point and steeper increase of the consumption score over time, respectively. Conclusions: We found that model-based behavioral control was associated with the binge drinking trajectory, while the model-free RPE signal was closely linked to the consumption score development. These findings support the idea that a shift from model-based to model-free control might be an important individual vulnerability in predisposing hazardous drinking behavior.