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A multivariate brain signature for reward

Research group Keysers
Publication year 2023
Published in NeuroImage
Authors Sebastian Speer, Christian Keysers, Judit Campdepadrós Barrios, Cas J S Teurlings, Ale Smidts, Maarten A S Boksem, Tor D Wager, V. Gazzola

The processing of reinforcers and punishers is crucial to adapt to an ever changing environment and its dysregulation is prevalent in mental health and substance use disorders. While many human brain measures related to reward have been based on activity in individual brain regions, recent studies indicate that many affective and motivational processes are encoded in distributed systems that span multiple regions. Consequently, decoding these processes using individual regions yields small effect sizes and limited reliability, whereas predictive models based on distributed patterns yield larger effect sizes and excellent reliability. To create such a predictive model for the processes of rewards and losses, termed the Brain Reward Signature (BRS), we trained a model to predict the signed magnitude of monetary rewards on the Monetary Incentive Delay task (MID; N = 39) and achieved a highly significant decoding performance (92% for decoding rewards versus losses). We subsequently demonstrate the generalizability of our signature on another version of the MID in a different sample (92% decoding accuracy; N = 12) and on a gambling task from a large sample (73% decoding accuracy, N = 1084). We further provided preliminary data to characterize the specificity of the signature by illustrating that the signature map generates estimates that significantly differ between rewarding and negative feedback (92% decoding accuracy) but do not differ for conditions that differ in disgust rather than reward in a novel Disgust-Delay Task (N = 39). Finally, we show that passively viewing positive and negatively valenced facial expressions loads positively on our signature, in line with previous studies on morbid curiosity. We thus created a BRS that can accurately predict brain responses to rewards and losses in active decision making tasks, and that possibly relates to information seeking in passive observational tasks.

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