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TitleStress-induced changes in human decision-making are reversible
Author(s)Soares, José Miguel
Sampaio, Adriana
Ferreira, Luís Miguel
Santos, N. C.
Marques, Fernanda
Palha, Joana Almeida
Cerqueira, João
Sousa, Nuno
KeywordsBasal ganglia
Goal-directed actions
Prefrontal cortex
Structural plasticity
Issue date2012
PublisherNature Publishing Group
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Abstract(s)Appropriate decision-making relies on the ability to shift between different behavioral strategies according to the context in which decisions are made. A cohort of subjects exposed to prolonged stress, and respective gender- and age-matched controls, performed an instrumental behavioral task to assess their decision-making strategies. The stressed cohort was reevaluated after a 6-week stress-free period. The behavioral analysis was complemented by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to detect the patterns of activation in corticostriatal networks ruling goal-directed and habitual actions. Using structural MRI, the volumes of the main cortical and subcortical regions implicated in instrumental behavior were determined. Here we show that chronic stress biases decision-making strategies in humans toward habits, as choices of stressed subjects become insensitive to changes in outcome value. Using functional imaging techniques, we demonstrate that prolonged exposure to stress in humans causes an imbalanced activation of the networks that govern decision processes, shifting activation from the associative to the sensorimotor circuits. These functional changes are paralleled by atrophy of the medial prefrontal cortex and the caudate, and by an increase in the volume of the putamina. Importantly, a longitudinal assessment of the stressed individuals showed that both the structural and functional changes triggered by stress are reversible and that decisions become again goal-directed.
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Appears in Collections:ICVS - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais com Referee

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