Reward processing and decision-making in Posttraumatic stress disorder

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Casey May (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Blair Wisco

Abstract: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often characterized by difficulty experiencing positive emotion and hyperarousal of negative emotion. Theory suggests that positive emotion is dampened due to frequent re-experiencing of trauma-related stimuli. Although prior research has extended positive emotion experiencing to reward processing research, research has not yet examined how reward processing and decision-making are affected in individuals with PTSD under a trauma prime. The proposed study compared the performance of individuals with PTSD (n = 22) to trauma-exposed controls (n = 24) (between-subjects design) in a passive wheel-of-fortune task and again in a decision-making version of the task, under both neutral and trauma primes (within-subjects). It was hypothesized that, compared to controls, the PTSD group would report a lower expectation of and lower satisfaction with reward in both passive and decision-making tasks. It was further predicted that the PTSD group would make more disadvantageous decisions than the control group in the decision-making task. These effects were expected to be predicted by the type of prime (in the PTSD group, lower following the trauma prime). Results showed that expectation of reward was predicted by the possible outcomes that were presented. Satisfaction of reward was predicted by the type of outcome, as well as the interaction of the group and the type of prime, such that individuals with PTSD rated lower satisfaction following the trauma prime compared to the neutral prime. In addition, those with PTSD made less advantageous decisions compared to controls. These findings suggest that in PTSD treatment, intrusion symptoms may need to be addressed before positive affect can be increased. In addition, individuals with PTSD may make less advantageous decisions (e.g., to engage in social interactions) when the potential gain is not obvious.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Decision-making, Emotional numbing, Gambling, PTSD, Reward processing, Trauma
Decision making $x Psychological aspects
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Emotions and cognition

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