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Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 1;64(1):62-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.02.015. Epub 2008 Apr 2.

Decision-making impairments in the context of intact reward sensitivity in schizophrenia.

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School of Psychology, Bangor University, Gwynedd, United Kingdom.



Deficits in motivated behavior and decision-making figure prominently in the behavioral syndrome that characterizes schizophrenia and are difficult both to treat and to understand. One explanation for these deficits is that schizophrenia decreases sensitivity to rewards in the environment. An alternate explanation is that sensitivity to rewards is intact but that poor integration of affective with cognitive information impairs the ability to use this information to guide behavior.


We tested reward sensitivity with a modified version of an existing signal detection task with asymmetric reinforcement and decision-making with a probabilistic decision-making task in 40 participants with schizophrenia and 26 healthy participants.


Results showed normal sensitivity to reward in participants with schizophrenia but differences in choice patterns on the decision-making task. A logistic regression model of the decision-making data showed that participants with schizophrenia differed from healthy participants in the ability to weigh potential outcomes, specifically potential losses, when choosing between competing response options. Deficits in working memory ability accounted for group differences in ability to use potential outcomes during decision-making.


These results suggest that the implicit mechanisms that drive reward-based learning are surprisingly intact in schizophrenia but that poor ability to integrate cognitive and affective information when calculating the value of possible choices might hamper the ability to use such information during explicit decision-making.

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