Change, stability, and instability in the Pavlovian guidance of behaviour from adolescence to young adulthood

by Michael Moutoussis, Edward T. Bullmore, Ian M. Goodyer, Peter Fonagy, Peter B. Jones, Raymond J. Dolan, Peter Dayan, on behalf of The Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network Research Consortium

Pavlovian influences are important in guiding decision-making across health and psychopathology. There is an increasing interest in using concise computational tasks to parametrise such influences in large populations, and especially to track their evolution during development and changes in mental health. However, the developmental course of Pavlovian influences is uncertain, a problem compounded by the unclear psychometric properties of the relevant measurements. We assessed Pavlovian influences in a longitudinal sample using a well characterised and widely used Go-NoGo task. We hypothesized that the strength of Pavlovian influences and other ‘psychomarkers’ guiding decision-making would behave like traits. As reliance on Pavlovian influence is not as profitable as precise instrumental decision-making in this Go-NoGo task, we expected this influence to decrease with higher IQ and age. Additionally, we hypothesized it would correlate with expressions of psychopathology. We found that Pavlovian effects had weak temporal stability, while model-fit was more stable. In terms of external validity, Pavlovian effects decreased with increasing IQ and experience within the task, in line with normative expectations. However, Pavlovian effects were poorly correlated with age or psychopathology. Thus, although this computational construct did correlate with important aspects of development, it does not meet conventional requirements for tracking individual development. We suggest measures that might improve psychometric properties of task-derived Pavlovian measures for future studies.

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