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Frontiers Media S.A
Frontiers in Neuroscience
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People often make decisions under aversive conditions such as acute stress. Yet, less is known about the process in which acute stress can influence decision-making. A growing body of research has established that reward-related information associated with the outcomes of decisions exerts a powerful influence over the choices people make and that an extensive network of brain regions, prominently featuring the striatum, is involved in the processing of this reward-related information. Thus, an important step in research on the nature of acute stress’ influence over decision-making is to examine how it may modulate responses to rewards and punishments within reward processing neural circuitry. In the current experiment, we employed a simple reward processing paradigm – where participants received monetary rewards and punishments – known to evoke robust striatal responses. Immediately prior to performing each of two task runs, participants were exposed to acute stress (i.e., cold pressor) or a no stress control procedure in a betweensubjects fashion. No stress group participants exhibited a pattern of activity within the dorsal striatum and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) consistent with past research on outcome processing – specifically, differential responses for monetary rewards over punishments. In contrast, acute stress group participants’ dorsal striatumand OFC demonstrated decreased sensitivity to monetary outcomes and a lack of differential activity. These findings provide insight into how neural circuits may process rewards and punishments associated with simple decisions under acutely stressful conditions.
Porcelli, Anthony J.; Lewis, Andrea H.; and Delgado, Mauricio R., "Acute Stress Influences Neural Circuits of Reward Processing" (2012). Psychology Faculty Research and Publications. 73.