"Distorted Estimation Of The Gain Underpins A Choice Bias Towards Gains"

“The tendency to make a compulsive (impulsive, ed) choice, even when faced with substantial negative outcomes and alternative choices:

  • Is characteristic of aberrant gambling or shopping behaviors
  • It is likely that the decision-making process is disrupted in individuals who demonstrate these compulsive behaviors.

Abnormalities in “prediction error,” which serves as a kind of teaching signal to update our future predictions and influence future choices, have been hypothesized to play a role in substance abuse disorders:

  • “A constellation of pathological behaviors, including gambling, shopping, binge eating, and hypersexuality, is seen in 13% of patients taking dopamine agonists (i.e., boost in dopamine from normal levels ed)
  • These behaviors are associated with factors predisposing to general substance abuse disorders, thus emphasizing a common underlying susceptibility.”

The researchers observed:

  • Dopamine agonists elicited an increase in the rate of learning from beneficial outcomes
  • And a greater prediction error signifying a better than expected outcome

“Our findings are consistent with a model whereby a distorted estimation of the gain underpins a choice bias towards gains:

  • Results highlight a key decision-making process dysregulated by dopamine agonists
  • In a population susceptible to compulsive behaviors
  • Provide clues to mechanisms that underlie behavioral escalation in a disorder of behavioral addiction
  • The mechanism may also explain why anecdotally some patients describe the onset of their gambling symptoms after experiencing a ‘win’.”