Computational Psychiatry & Decision-making

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  • doi pdf suppl Serotonin, behavioral inhibition and negative mood
  • Dayan P and Huys QJM
  • PLoS Computational Biology (2008) 4(2): e4
  • Pavlovian predictions of future aversive outcomes lead to behavioral inhibition, suppression, and withdrawal. There is considerable evidence for the involvement of serotonin in both the learning of these predictions and the inhibitory consequences that ensue, although less for a causal relationship between the two. In the context of a highly simplified model of chains of affectively charged thoughts, we interpret the combined effects of serotonin in terms of pruning a tree of possible decisions, (i.e., eliminating those choices that have low or negative expected outcomes). We show how a drop in behavioral inhibition, putatively resulting from an experimentally or psychiatrically influenced drop in serotonin, could result in unexpectedly large negative prediction errors and a significant aversive shift in reinforcement statistics. We suggest an interpretation of this finding that helps dissolve the apparent contradiction between the fact that inhibition of serotonin reuptake is the first-line treatment of depression, although serotonin itself is most strongly linked with aversive rather than appetitive outcomes and predictions.