Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

A neurocomputational account of how inflammation enhances sensitivity to punishments versus rewards

Harrison, Neil A. ORCID:, Voon, Valerie, Cercignani, Mara ORCID:, Cooper, Ella A., Pessiglione, Mathias and Critchley, Hugo D. 2016. A neurocomputational account of how inflammation enhances sensitivity to punishments versus rewards. Biological Psychiatry 80 (1) , pp. 73-81. 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.018

[thumbnail of PIIS000632231500637X.pdf] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (2MB)


Background Inflammation rapidly impairs mood and cognition and, when severe, can appear indistinguishable from major depression. These sickness responses are characterized by an acute reorientation of motivational state; pleasurable activities are avoided, and sensitivity to negative stimuli is enhanced. However, it remains unclear how these rapid shifts in behavior are mediated within the brain. Methods Here, we combined computational modeling of choice behavior, experimentally induced inflammation, and functional brain imaging (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to describe these mechanisms. Using a double-blind, randomized crossover study design, 24 healthy volunteers completed a probabilistic instrumental learning task on two separate occasions, one 3 hours after typhoid vaccination and one 3 hours after saline (placebo) injection. Participants learned to select high probability reward (win £1) and avoid high probability punishment (lose £1) stimuli. An action-value learning algorithm was fit to the observed behavior, then used within functional magnetic resonance imaging analyses to identify neural coding of prediction error signals driving motivational learning. Results Inflammation acutely biased behavior, enhancing punishment compared with reward sensitivity, through distinct actions on neural representations of reward and punishment prediction errors within the ventral striatum and anterior insula. Consequently, choice options leading to potential rewards were less behaviorally attractive, and those leading to punishments were more aversive. Conclusions Our findings demonstrate the neural mediation of a rapid, state-dependent reorientation of reward versus punishment sensitivity during inflammation. This mechanism may aid the adaptive reallocation of metabolic resources during acute sickness but might also account for maladaptive, motivational changes that underpin the association between chronic inflammation and depression.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Additional Information: This is an open access article under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0006-3223
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 June 2020
Date of Acceptance: 17 July 2015
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 05:14

Citation Data

Cited 102 times in Scopus. View in Scopus. Powered By Scopus® Data

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics