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Journal

Incentive motivation deficits in schizophrenia reflect effort computation impairments during cost-benefit decision-making

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Published:25th Mar 2020

Background:

Motivational impairments are a core feature of schizophrenia and although there are numerous reports studying this feature using clinical rating scales, objective behavioural assessments are lacking. Here, we use a translational paradigm to measure incentive motivation in individuals with schizophrenia.

Methods:

Sixteen stable outpatients with schizophrenia and sixteen matched healthy controls completed a modified version of the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task that accounts for differences in motoric ability. Briefly, subjects were presented with a series of trials where they may choose to expend a greater amount of effort for a larger monetary reward versus less effort for a smaller reward. Additionally, the probability of receiving money for a given trial was varied at 12%, 50% and 88%. Clinical and other reward-related variables were also evaluated.

Results:

Patients opted to expend greater effort significantly less than controls for trials of high, but uncertain (i.e. 50% and 88% probability) incentive value, which was related to amotivation and neurocognitive deficits. Other abnormalities were also noted but were related to different clinical variables such as impulsivity (low reward and 12% probability). These motivational deficits were not due to group differences in reward learning, reward valuation or hedonic capacity.

Conclusions:

Our findings offer novel support for incentive motivation deficits in schizophrenia. Clinical amotivation is associated with impairments in the computation of effort during cost-benefit decision-making. This objective translational paradigm may guide future investigations of the neural circuitry underlying these motivational impairments.

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