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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Relationship between effortful motivation and neurocognition in schizophrenia.

  • Author(s): Bismark, Andrew W
  • Thomas, Michael L
  • Tarasenko, Melissa
  • Shiluk, Alexandra L
  • Rackelmann, Sonia Y
  • Young, Jared W
  • Light, Gregory A
  • et al.

Effortful motivation and reward valuation learning deficits are associated with negative symptoms and impaired cognition in schizophrenia (SZ) patients. Whereas clinical assessments of motivation and reward value typically rely upon clinician ratings or self-report scales, behavioral measures often confound these constructs. Simple reverse-translated behavioral tasks that independently quantify motivation and reward valuation-which could then be linked to cognition-may facilitate the development of pro-cognitive therapeutics by bridging the "preclinical-to-clinical" gap. This study determined whether novel behavioral measures of effortful motivation and reward valuation are associated with impaired cognition in SZ patients (n=36). Patients completed the Progressive Ratio Breakpoint task (PRBT; physical effort motivation) and the Probabilistic Learning Task (PLT; reward learning/valuation) in conjunction with the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB). SZ patients exhibited statistically significant deficits in global cognition and all individual MCCB subdomains. Significant correlations were observed between PRBT and MCCB global cognition (r=0.52), speed of processing (r=0.56) and attention vigilance (r=0.48) subdomains, but not with PLT or clinical symptoms. Results indicate that effort and reward learning deficits are dissociable targets that can improve our understanding of cognitive impairments associated among patients with SZ. More importantly, the results support the long-standing notion that the measurement of cognitive impairments in SZ is highly linked to a willingness to expend effort. The availability of a PRBT designed for use in both rodents and humans could improve our understanding of the nature of cognitive impairments in neuropsychiatric disorders and accelerate the development of novel pro-cognitive therapeutics.

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