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The Allure of High-Risk Rewards in Huntington’s disease

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 December 2015

Nelleke C. van Wouwe*
Affiliation:
Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tennessee
Kristen E. Kanoff
Affiliation:
Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tennessee
Daniel O. Claassen
Affiliation:
Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tennessee
K. Richard Ridderinkhof
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands Amsterdam Brain & Cognition (ABC), University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Peter Hedera
Affiliation:
Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tennessee
Madaline B. Harrison
Affiliation:
Department of Neurology, University of Virginia, Virginia
Scott A. Wylie
Affiliation:
Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Tennessee
*
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Nelleke C. van Wouwe, Department of Neurology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, 37232. Email: nelleke.van.wouwe@vanderbilt.edu

Abstract

Objectives: Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that produces a bias toward risky, reward-driven decisions in situations where the outcomes of decisions are uncertain and must be discovered. However, it is unclear whether HD patients show similar biases in decision-making when learning demands are minimized and prospective risks and outcomes are known explicitly. We investigated how risk decision-making strategies and adjustments are altered in HD patients when reward contingencies are explicit. Methods: HD (N=18) and healthy control (HC; N=17) participants completed a risk-taking task in which they made a series of independent choices between a low-risk/low reward and high-risk/high reward risk options. Results: Computational modeling showed that compared to HC, who showed a clear preference for low-risk compared to high-risk decisions, the HD group valued high-risks more than low-risk decisions, especially when high-risks were rewarded. The strategy analysis indicated that when high-risk options were rewarded, HC adopted a conservative risk strategy on the next trial by preferring the low-risk option (i.e., they counted their blessings and then played the surer bet). In contrast, following a rewarded high-risk choice, HD patients showed a clear preference for repeating the high-risk choice. Conclusions: These results indicate a pattern of high-risk/high-reward decision bias in HD that persists when outcomes and risks are certain. The allure of high-risk/high-reward decisions in situations of risk certainty and uncertainty expands our insight into the dynamic decision-making deficits that create considerable clinical burden in HD. (JINS, 2016, 22, 426–435)

Type
Research Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2015 

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