Beta-blocker propranolol modulates decision urgency during sequential information gathering

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Abstract

Arbitrating between timely choice and extended information gathering is critical for effective decision making. Aberrant information gathering behavior is thought to be a feature of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but we know little about the underlying neurocognitive control mechanisms. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled drug study involving 60 healthy human subjects (30 female), we examined the effects of noradrenaline and dopamine antagonism on information gathering during performance of an information sampling task. We show that modulating noradrenaline function with 40 mg of the β-blocker propranolol leads to decreased information gathering behavior. Modulating dopamine function via a single dose of 400 mg of amisulpride revealed some effects that were intermediate between those of propranolol and placebo. Using a Bayesian computational model, we show that sampling behavior is best explained by inclusion of a nonlinear urgency signal that promotes commitment to an early decision. Noradrenaline blockade promotes the expression of this decision-related urgency signal during information gathering. We discuss the findings with respect to psychopathological conditions that are linked to aberrant information gathering.

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Hauser, T. U., Moutoussis, M., Purg, N., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. J. (2018). Beta-blocker propranolol modulates decision urgency during sequential information gathering. Journal of Neuroscience, 38(32), 7170–7178. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0192-18.2018

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