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Impaired learning of social compared to monetary rewards in autism

Lin, Alice and Rangel, Antonio and Adolphs, Ralph (2012) Impaired learning of social compared to monetary rewards in autism. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 6 . Art. No. 143. ISSN 1662-4548. PMCID PMC3461406. doi:10.3389/fnins.2012.00143.

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A leading hypothesis to explain the social dysfunction in people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is that they exhibit a deficit in reward processing and motivation specific to social stimuli. However, there have been few direct tests of this hypothesis to date. Here we used an instrumental reward learning task that contrasted learning with social rewards (pictures of positive and negative faces) against learning with monetary reward (winning and losing money). The two tasks were structurally identical except for the type of reward, permitting direct comparisons. We tested 10 high-functioning people with ASD (7M, 3F) and 10 healthy controls who were matched on gender, age, and education. We found no significant differences between the two groups in terms of overall ability behaviorally to discriminate positive from negative slot machines, reaction-times, and valence ratings, However, there was a specific impairment in the ASD group in learning to choose social rewards, compared to monetary rewards: they had a significantly lower cumulative number of choices of the most rewarding social slot machine, and had a significantly slower initial learning rate for the socially rewarding slot machine, compared to the controls. The findings show a deficit in reward learning in ASD that is greater for social rewards than for monetary rewards, and support the hypothesis of a disproportionate impairment in social reward processing in ASD.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Adolphs, Ralph0000-0002-8053-9692
Additional Information:© 2012 Lin, Rangel and Adolphs. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc. Received: 04 July 2012; Accepted: 11 September 2012; Published online: 01 October 2012. Supported in part by grants from the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation (Antonio Rangel and Ralph Adolphs), an NSF IGERT training grant (Alice Lin), and a grant from NIMH (Ralph Adolphs).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NSF Predoctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:social reward, monetary reward, autism
PubMed Central ID:PMC3461406
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20121022-092612686
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Official Citation:Lin A, Rangel A and Adolphs R (2012) Impaired learning of social compared to monetary rewards in autism. Front. Neurosci. 6:143. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00143
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:34998
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Oct 2012 16:39
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:11

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