Revealing Neurocomputational Mechanisms of Reinforcement Learning and Decision-Making With the hBayesDM Package

Comput Psychiatr. 2017 Oct 1;1:24-57. doi: 10.1162/CPSY_a_00002. eCollection 2017 Oct.

Abstract

Reinforcement learning and decision-making (RLDM) provide a quantitative framework and computational theories with which we can disentangle psychiatric conditions into the basic dimensions of neurocognitive functioning. RLDM offer a novel approach to assessing and potentially diagnosing psychiatric patients, and there is growing enthusiasm for both RLDM and computational psychiatry among clinical researchers. Such a framework can also provide insights into the brain substrates of particular RLDM processes, as exemplified by model-based analysis of data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG). However, researchers often find the approach too technical and have difficulty adopting it for their research. Thus, a critical need remains to develop a user-friendly tool for the wide dissemination of computational psychiatric methods. We introduce an R package called hBayesDM (hierarchical Bayesian modeling of Decision-Making tasks), which offers computational modeling of an array of RLDM tasks and social exchange games. The hBayesDM package offers state-of-the-art hierarchical Bayesian modeling, in which both individual and group parameters (i.e., posterior distributions) are estimated simultaneously in a mutually constraining fashion. At the same time, the package is extremely user-friendly: users can perform computational modeling, output visualization, and Bayesian model comparisons, each with a single line of coding. Users can also extract the trial-by-trial latent variables (e.g., prediction errors) required for model-based fMRI/EEG. With the hBayesDM package, we anticipate that anyone with minimal knowledge of programming can take advantage of cutting-edge computational-modeling approaches to investigate the underlying processes of and interactions between multiple decision-making (e.g., goal-directed, habitual, and Pavlovian) systems. In this way, we expect that the hBayesDM package will contribute to the dissemination of advanced modeling approaches and enable a wide range of researchers to easily perform computational psychiatric research within different populations.

Keywords: decision-making; hierarchical Bayesian modeling; model-based fMRI; reinforcement learning.