Background: Patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) demonstrate aberrations in choice behavior, including impairments in laboratory measures of decision making. Although a wealth of studies suggest that these aberrations arise from alterations in value processing, it remains unclear by which core component of value processing this is mediated.
Methods: We fit trial-by-trial data of patients with AN (n = 60 first cohort, n = 216 second cohort) and healthy control participants (n = 55) performing the Iowa Gambling Task to a computational model based on prospect utility theory. We determined, per participant, the best-fit model parameters and compared these between the groups.
Results: Analyses revealed a decreased estimate of model parameter λ in patients with AN, indicative of an attenuation of loss-aversive behavior in the Iowa Gambling Task. In comparison, measures of reward sensitivity, value-based learning, and exploration versus exploitation were unaltered in patients with AN. A measurement in a second independent cohort replicated the finding that loss aversion, typically observed in healthy individuals, is reduced in patients with AN.
Conclusions: We show that patients with AN, in contrast to healthy control participants, demonstrate reduced loss-aversive behavior. This finding provides important fundamental insights into the decision-making capacity of patients with AN, suggesting alterations in the mechanisms involved in value processing related to negative feedback.
Keywords: Anorexia nervosa; Computational modeling; Decision making; Eating disorders; Iowa Gambling Task; Value.
Copyright © 2019. Published by Elsevier Inc.