Presentation Title

Early Life Stress and Habitual Responses in Instrumental Learning Task

Faculty Mentor

Barbara Knowlton

Start Date

23-11-2019 8:45 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 9:30 AM

Location

16

Session

poster 2

Type of Presentation

Poster

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

There is substantial evidence linking early-life stress (ELS; e.g., loss events, child abuse or neglect) to negative health outcomes in adulthood, including addiction. However, the neurocognitive and behavioral mechanisms through which ELS increases risk for addiction later in life remain unclear. To address this gap in knowledge, we developed a novel instrumental learning paradigm to explore the effects of ELS on habitual versus goal-directed learning. Habits are remarkably efficient at reproducing repetitive behaviors but are inflexible when reward contingencies related to those behaviors change. Persisting in performing a response after its outcome has been devalued is the hallmark of habitual behavior in instrumental learning. Of participants (N=121) from UCLA’s psychology subject pool, those with a history of higher (N=60) ELS were significantly more likely to make habitual responses in this instrumental learning paradigm than individuals with a history of lower (N=61) ELS. Logistic regression analysis showed that ELS (a continuous variable) is significantly related to habitual responding over and above the effects of retrospective socioeconomic status, trait anxiety, depression and current levels of stress. Analysis of the type of ELS suggested that these effects are largely driven by experiences of physical neglect and physical abuse. These results suggest a hitherto unexplored learning mechanism may mediate the relationship between a history of ELS and addiction later in life.

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Nov 23rd, 8:45 AM Nov 23rd, 9:30 AM

Early Life Stress and Habitual Responses in Instrumental Learning Task

16

There is substantial evidence linking early-life stress (ELS; e.g., loss events, child abuse or neglect) to negative health outcomes in adulthood, including addiction. However, the neurocognitive and behavioral mechanisms through which ELS increases risk for addiction later in life remain unclear. To address this gap in knowledge, we developed a novel instrumental learning paradigm to explore the effects of ELS on habitual versus goal-directed learning. Habits are remarkably efficient at reproducing repetitive behaviors but are inflexible when reward contingencies related to those behaviors change. Persisting in performing a response after its outcome has been devalued is the hallmark of habitual behavior in instrumental learning. Of participants (N=121) from UCLA’s psychology subject pool, those with a history of higher (N=60) ELS were significantly more likely to make habitual responses in this instrumental learning paradigm than individuals with a history of lower (N=61) ELS. Logistic regression analysis showed that ELS (a continuous variable) is significantly related to habitual responding over and above the effects of retrospective socioeconomic status, trait anxiety, depression and current levels of stress. Analysis of the type of ELS suggested that these effects are largely driven by experiences of physical neglect and physical abuse. These results suggest a hitherto unexplored learning mechanism may mediate the relationship between a history of ELS and addiction later in life.