Computational Psychiatry & Decision-making

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  • doi pdf No association of goal-directed and habitual control with alcohol consumption in young adults
  • Nebe S, Kroemer NB, Schad DJ, Bernhardt N, Sebold M, Müller DK, Scholl L, Kuitunen-Paul S, Heinz A, Rapp M, Huys QJ, Smolka MN
  • Addiction Biology (2017)
  • Alcohol dependence is a mental disorder which has been associated with an imbalance in behavioral control favoring model-free habitual over model-based goal-directed strategies. It is as yet unknown, however, whether such an imbalance reflects a predisposing vulnerability or results as a consequence of repeated and/or excessive alcohol exposure. We, therefore, examined the association of alcohol consumption with model-based goal-directed and model-free habitual control in 188 eighteen-year-old social drinkers in a two-step sequential decision-making task while undergoing fMRI before prolonged alcohol misuse could have led to severe neurobiological adaptations. Behaviorally, participants showed a mixture of model-free and model-based decision-making as observed previously. Measures of impulsivity were positively related to alcohol consumption. In contrast, neither model-free nor model-based decision weights nor the tradeoff between them were associated with alcohol consumption. There were also no significant associations between alcohol consumption and neural correlates of model-free or model-based decision quantities in either ventral striatum or ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Exploratory whole-brain fMRI analyses with a lenient threshold revealed early onset of drinking to be associated with an enhanced representation of model-free reward prediction errors in the posterior putamen. These results suggest that an imbalance between model-based goal-directed and model-free habitual control might rather not be a trait marker of alcohol intake per se.