Neurocognitive Investigations of Habitual Behavior Modification Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • McKim, Theresa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Addiction is a disorder characterized by maladaptive associative learning processes in which behavior can result despite negative health outcomes. Research from human and animal models suggests that dysfunction within frontostriatal neural circuitry may contribute to a shift from goal-directed to habit-based action selection. The goal of the present dissertation was to examine the impact of acute psychosocial stress and non-invasive transcranial alternating current stimulation on increasing and reducing habitual responding, respectively. We assessed the importance of stress timing on potentiating habitual responding in healthy males in Chapter 2 and found that stress prior to execution and learning of S-R associations increased perseverative errors. The underlying biological mechanism of this shift in behavior related to sympathetic activation; we found that males that were able to mount a parasympathetic response to counteract the biological effects of stress were less likely to perseverate. Similarly, Chapter 3 was designed to examine the relationship between stress timing and menstrual cycle phase effects on habitual responding in healthy females. In contrast to our male results, we showed that regardless of menstrual cycle phase (menstrual versus luteal) and stress timing, females did not show increased perseverative responding. These results demonstrated differences in the experience and biological response to acute psychosocial stress, and suggested that differences in ovarian hormone levels may contribute to behavior under conditions of stress. In Chapter 4 we tested the use of non-invasive transcranial alternating current stimulation in healthy controls and individuals with an addiction history to diminish perseverative errors after response devaluation. Contrary to our predictions, true versus sham stimulation increased perseverative errors in healthy controls, while there were more subtle improvements in performance in the addiction history group, not specific to perseverative responding. Together, these data demonstrate conditions in which goal-directed behavior can be shifted toward habit-based actions, and suggest that concomitant shifts from top-down (prefrontal) to bottom-up (striatal) control within the brain contributes to changes in these response selection strategies. More broadly, these findings implicate frontostriatal circuitry and habitual behaviors as a highly promising research area to develop novel treatment methods for disorders characterized by intractable behaviors.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Grewen, Karen
  • Sheridan, Margaret
  • Robinson, Donita
  • Boettiger, Charlotte
  • Reissner, Kathryn
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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