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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Feb 24;112(8):2539-44. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1416639112. Epub 2015 Jan 20.

Belief about nicotine selectively modulates value and reward prediction error signals in smokers.

Author information

1
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom; Human Neuroimaging Laboratory, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, VA 24011;
2
Human Neuroimaging Laboratory, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, VA 24011;
3
Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77225;
4
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755;
5
Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, DK-5230 Odense, Denmark;
6
Departments of Behavioral Science, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77230; and.
7
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom; Human Neuroimaging Laboratory, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Roanoke, VA 24011; Department of Physics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061 read@vtc.vt.edu.

Abstract

Little is known about how prior beliefs impact biophysically described processes in the presence of neuroactive drugs, which presents a profound challenge to the understanding of the mechanisms and treatments of addiction. We engineered smokers' prior beliefs about the presence of nicotine in a cigarette smoked before a functional magnetic resonance imaging session where subjects carried out a sequential choice task. Using a model-based approach, we show that smokers' beliefs about nicotine specifically modulated learning signals (value and reward prediction error) defined by a computational model of mesolimbic dopamine systems. Belief of "no nicotine in cigarette" (compared with "nicotine in cigarette") strongly diminished neural responses in the striatum to value and reward prediction errors and reduced the impact of both on smokers' choices. These effects of belief could not be explained by global changes in visual attention and were specific to value and reward prediction errors. Thus, by modulating the expression of computationally explicit signals important for valuation and choice, beliefs can override the physical presence of a potent neuroactive compound like nicotine. These selective effects of belief demonstrate that belief can modulate model-based parameters important for learning. The implications of these findings may be far ranging because belief-dependent effects on learning signals could impact a host of other behaviors in addiction as well as in other mental health problems.

KEYWORDS:

belief; dopamine; fMRI; nicotine addiction; reinforcement learning

Comment in

PMID:
25605923
PMCID:
PMC4345562
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1416639112
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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