Incentive motivation in first-episode psychosis: a behavioural study

BMC Psychiatry. 2008 May 8;8:34. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-8-34.


Background: It has been proposed that there are abnormalities in incentive motivational processing in psychosis, possibly secondary to subcortical dopamine abnormalities, but few empirical studies have addressed this issue.

Methods: We studied incentive motivation in 18 first-episode psychosis patients from the Cambridge early psychosis service CAMEO and 19 control participants using the Cued Reinforcement Reaction Time Task, which measures motivationally driven behaviour. We also gathered information on participants' attentional, executive and spatial working memory function in order to determine whether any incentive motivation deficits were secondary to generalised cognitive impairment.

Results: We demonstrated the anticipated "reinforcement-related speeding" effect in controls (17 out of 19 control participants responded faster during an "odd-one-out" task in response to a cue that indicated a high likelihood of a large points reward). Only 4 out of 18 patients showed this effect and there was a significant interaction effect between reinforcement probability and diagnosis on reaction time (F1,35 = 14.2, p = 0.001). This deficit was present in spite of preserved executive and attentional function in patients, and persisted even in antipsychotic medication free patients.

Conclusion: There are incentive motivation processing abnormalities in first-episode psychosis; these may be secondary to dopamine dysfunction and are not attributable to generalised cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Patient Selection
  • Probability
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Reference Values
  • Reinforcement, Psychology


  • Antipsychotic Agents