Impaired decision-making is a key-feature of many neuropsychiatric disorders. In the present study, we examined task performance in a healthy population consisting of those whose scores indicated high and low impulsivity on several behavioral decision-making tasks reflecting orbitofrontal functioning. The measures included tasks that assess decision-making with and without a learning component and choice flexibility. The results show that subjects high on impulsivity display an overall deficit in their decision-making performance as compared with subjects low on impulsivity. More specifically, subjects with high impulsivity show weaknesses in learning of reward and punishment associations in order to make appropriate decisions (reversal-learning task and Iowa Gambling Task), and impaired adaptation of choice behavior according to changes in stimulus-reward contingencies (reversal-learning task). Simple, non-learning, components of reward- and punishment-based decision-making (Rogers Decision-Making Task) seem to be relatively unaffected. Above all, the results indicate that impulsivity is associated with a decreased ability to alter choice behavior in response to fluctuations in reward contingency. The findings add further evidence to the notion that trait impulsivity is associated with decision-making, a function of the orbitofrontal cortex.

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Psychiatry Research
Department of Psychology