Substance use is associated with reduced devaluation sensitivity

  • Kaileigh A. Byrne
  • A. Ross Otto
  • Bo Pang
  • Christopher J. Patrick
  • Darrell A. WorthyEmail author


Substance use has been linked to impairments in reward processing and decision-making, yet empirical research on the relationship between substance use and devaluation of reward in humans is limited. We report findings from two studies that tested whether individual differences in substance use behavior predicted reward learning strategies and devaluation sensitivity in a nonclinical sample. Participants in Experiment 1 (N = 66) and Experiment 2 (N = 91) completed subscales of the Externalizing Spectrum Inventory and then performed a two-stage reinforcement learning task that included a devaluation procedure. Spontaneous eye blink rate was used as an indirect proxy for dopamine functioning. In Experiment 1, correlational analysis revealed a negative relationship between substance use and devaluation sensitivity. In Experiment 2, regression modeling revealed that while spontaneous eyeblink rate moderated the relationship between substance use and reward learning strategies, substance use alone was related to devaluation sensitivity. These results suggest that once reward-action associations are established during reinforcement learning, substance use predicted reduced sensitivity to devaluation independently of variation in eyeblink rate. Thus, substance use is not only related to increased habit formation but also to difficulty disengaging from learned habits. Implications for the role of the dopaminergic system in habitual responding in individuals with substance use problems are discussed.


Substance use Decision-making Reward Devaluation Habit formation 



This article was supported by NIA Grant AG043425 to D.A.W.

Supplementary material

13415_2018_638_MOESM1_ESM.docx (86 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 85 kb)


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kaileigh A. Byrne
    • 1
  • A. Ross Otto
    • 2
  • Bo Pang
    • 3
  • Christopher J. Patrick
    • 4
  • Darrell A. Worthy
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Clemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  4. 4.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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