Presentation Title

Stress Narrative Favors Habit-Based Control of Instrumental Behavior in Humans

Time

1:00 PM

Location

Silver Maple Ballroom - Health Sciences

Abstract

Nathan Schwab, Remy Castella, Heather Homberg, Kevin Walder, Eric Thrailkill, & Scott Mackey

University of Vermont, Neuroscience Program and Departments of Psychiatry and Psychological Sciences

Abstract:

Instrumental behavior is governed by two brain systems: a habit-based controller and a goal-directed controller. Habit-based control is fast and efficient, and depends on learning related to previously reinforced behavior. Goal-directed control is slower and more deliberate, and flexibly adapts responding to moment-to-moment changes in the behavioral context. Specific conditions bias control of instrumental behavior to one system or the other. Stress, fatigue, overtraining and cognitive load bias behavior toward habit-based control. Devaluation paradigms in which the outcome of a trained behavior is suddenly devalued are used to assess which system is controlling behavior under different conditions. Here, we used a devaluation paradigm to determine whether a verbal narrative stressor would bias behavior toward habit-based control. Participants were exposed to either a stressful or a neutral nonstressful narrative. On average, the stressed participants continued to respond at a higher rate than the nonstressed participants after outcome devaluation indicating that the narrative stressor effectively biased behavior toward habit-based control. We also examined whether the narrative stressor would differentially affect behavior in smokers and nonsmokers but found that there was no difference between groups.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Michael Scott Mackey

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Program/Major

Communication Sciences and Disorders

Primary Research Category

Health Sciences

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Stress Narrative Favors Habit-Based Control of Instrumental Behavior in Humans

Nathan Schwab, Remy Castella, Heather Homberg, Kevin Walder, Eric Thrailkill, & Scott Mackey

University of Vermont, Neuroscience Program and Departments of Psychiatry and Psychological Sciences

Abstract:

Instrumental behavior is governed by two brain systems: a habit-based controller and a goal-directed controller. Habit-based control is fast and efficient, and depends on learning related to previously reinforced behavior. Goal-directed control is slower and more deliberate, and flexibly adapts responding to moment-to-moment changes in the behavioral context. Specific conditions bias control of instrumental behavior to one system or the other. Stress, fatigue, overtraining and cognitive load bias behavior toward habit-based control. Devaluation paradigms in which the outcome of a trained behavior is suddenly devalued are used to assess which system is controlling behavior under different conditions. Here, we used a devaluation paradigm to determine whether a verbal narrative stressor would bias behavior toward habit-based control. Participants were exposed to either a stressful or a neutral nonstressful narrative. On average, the stressed participants continued to respond at a higher rate than the nonstressed participants after outcome devaluation indicating that the narrative stressor effectively biased behavior toward habit-based control. We also examined whether the narrative stressor would differentially affect behavior in smokers and nonsmokers but found that there was no difference between groups.