Temporal and Effort cost Decision-making in Healthy Individuals with Subclinical Psychotic Symptoms

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Scientific Reports


© 2019, The Author(s). The value people attribute to rewards is influenced both by the time and the effort required to obtain them. Impairments in these computations are described in patients with schizophrenia and appear associated with negative symptom severity. This study investigated whether deficits in temporal and effort cost computations can be observed in individuals with subclinical psychotic symptoms (PS) to determine if this dysfunction is already present in a potentially pre-psychotic period. Sixty participants, divided into three groups based on the severity of PS (high, medium and low), performed two temporal discounting tasks with food and money and a concurrent schedule task, in which the effort to obtain food increased over time. We observed that in high PS participants the discounting rate appeared linear and flatter than that exhibited by participants with medium and low PS, especially with food. In the concurrent task, compared to those with low PS, participants with high PS exerted tendentially less effort to obtain snacks only when the required effort was high. Participants exerting less effort in the higher effort condition were those with higher negative symptoms. These results suggest that aberrant temporal and effort cost computations might be present in individuals with subclinical PS and therefore could represent a vulnerability marker for psychosis.

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