Insensitivity to Losses: A Core Feature in Patients With Anorexia Nervosa?
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BACKGROUND: Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) demonstrate aberrations in choice behavior, including impairments in laboratory measures of decision making. Although a wealth of studies suggest that these aberrations arise from alterations in value processing, it remains unclear by which core component of value processing this is mediated. METHODS: We fit trial-by-trial data of patients with AN (n = 60 first cohort, n = 216 second cohort) and healthy control participants (n = 55) performing the Iowa Gambling Task to a computational model based on prospect utility theory. We determined, per participant, the best-fit model parameters and compared these between the groups. RESULTS: Analyses revealed a decreased estimate of model parameter lambda in patients with AN, indicative of an attenuation of loss-aversive behavior in the Iowa Gambling Task. In comparison, measures of reward sensitivity, value-based learning, and exploration versus exploitation were unaltered in patients with AN. A measurement in a second independent cohort replicated the finding that loss aversion, typically observed in healthy individuals, is reduced in patients with AN. CONCLUSIONS: We show that patients with AN, in contrast to healthy control participants, demonstrate reduced loss-aversive behavior. This finding provides important fundamental insights into the decision-making capacity of patients with AN, suggesting alterations in the mechanisms involved in value processing related to negative feedback.
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