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Autonomic responses to choice outcomes: Links to task performance and reinforcement-learning parameters

, Douglas H. Wedell
Published: 1 October 2020

Abstract: Previous work has shown that autonomic responses to choice feedback can predict subsequent decision-making. In this study, we tested whether skin conductance responses (SCRs) and heart rate (HR) decelerations following the presentation of choice outcomes predict Iowa Gambling Task performance in nonclinical participants (n = 64). We also examined how these signals related to parameters of a reinforcement-learning (RL) model. Feedback SCRs and HR decelerations were greater following outcomes that included losses and choices from the bad decks defined by their negative expected value. In addition, SCRs predicted task performance. A hierarchical Bayesian RL model indicated that greater feedback SCR for the bad decks compared to good decks was associated with stronger loss aversion and a lower learning rate, both of which predicted higher performance. These results suggest that feedback-related SCRs are linked to individual differences in outcome evaluation and learning processes that guide reinforcement-learning.
Keywords: Heart rate / Hierarchical Bayesian models / Iowa gambling task / Skin conductance

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