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Analysis of Neural Data

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Altered behavioral and neural responsiveness to counterfactual gains in the elderly
Citation key Tobia2016
Author Tobia, M. J. and Guo, R. and Gläscher, J. and Schwarze, U. and Brassen, S. and Büchel, C. and Obermayer, K. and Sommer, T.
Pages 457-472
Year 2016
ISSN 1531-135X
DOI 10.3758/s13415-016-0406-7
Journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience
Editor Springer US
Abstract Counterfactual information processing refers to the consideration of events that did not occur in comparison to those actually experienced, in order to determine optimal actions, and can be formulated as computational learning signals, referred to as fictive prediction errors. Decision making and the neural circuitry for counterfactual processing are altered in healthy elderly adults. This experiment investigated age differences in neural systems for decision making with knowledge of counterfactual outcomes. Two groups of healthy adult participants, young (N = 30; ages 19–30 years) and elderly (N = 19; ages 65–80 years), were scanned with fMRI during 240 trials of a strategic sequential investment task in which a particular strategy of differentially weighting counterfactual gains and losses during valuation is associated with more optimal performance. Elderly participants earned significantly less than young adults, differently weighted counterfactual consequences and exploited task knowledge, and exhibited altered activity in a fronto-striatal circuit while making choices, compared to young adults. The degree to which task knowledge was exploited was positively correlated with modulation of neural activity by expected value in the vmPFC for young adults, but not in the elderly. These findings demonstrate that elderly participants' poor task performance may be related to different counterfactual processing.
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