Impaired Learning From Negative Feedback in Stimulant Use Disorder: Dopaminergic Modulation.


BACKGROUND: Drug-induced alterations to the dopamine system in stimulant use disorder (SUD) are hypothesized to impair reinforcement learning (RL). Computational modeling enables the investigation of the latent processes of RL in SUD patients, which could elucidate the nature of their impairments. METHODS: We investigated RL in 44 SUD patients and 41 healthy control participants using a probabilistic RL task that assesses learning from reward and punishment separately. In an independent sample, we determined the modulatory role of dopamine in RL following a single dose of the dopamine D2/3 receptor antagonist amisulpride (400 mg) and the agonist pramipexole (0.5 mg) in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. We analyzed task performance using computational modelling and hypothesized that RL impairments in SUD patients would be differentially modulated by a dopamine D2/3 receptor antagonist and agonist. RESULTS: Computational analyses in both samples revealed significantly reduced learning rates from punishment in SUD patients compared with healthy controls, whilst their reward learning rates were not measurably impaired. In addition, the dopaminergic receptor agents modulated RL parameters differentially in both groups. Both amisulpride and pramipexole impaired RL parameters in healthy participants, but ameliorated learning from punishment in SUD patients. CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that RL impairments seen in SUD patients are associated with altered dopamine function.