Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Decision-making ability, psychopathology, and brain connectivity

An open access review offered by Dolan and his colleagues continues the story of correlating our human competencies with our brain structures. They describe
...a new cognitive construct—decision acuity—that captures global decision-making ability. High decision acuity prominently reflected low decision variability. Decision acuity showed acceptable reliability, increased with age, and was associated with mental health symptoms independently of intelligence. Crucially, it was associated with distinctive resting-state networks, in particular in brain regions typically engaged by decision-making tasks. The association between decision acuity and functional connectivity was temporally stable and distinct from that of IQ.

• Young people have a general decision-making ability, which we call “decision acuity” 
• Decision acuity is reflected in how strongly connected certain brain networks are 
• Low decision acuity is associated with general social function psychopathology
Decision-making is a cognitive process of central importance for the quality of our lives. Here, we ask whether a common factor underpins our diverse decision-making abilities. We obtained 32 decision-making measures from 830 young people and identified a common factor that we call “decision acuity,” which was distinct from IQ and reflected a generic decision-making ability. Decision acuity was decreased in those with aberrant thinking and low general social functioning. Crucially, decision acuity and IQ had dissociable brain signatures, in terms of their associated neural networks of resting-state functional connectivity. Decision acuity was reliably measured, and its relationship with functional connectivity was also stable when measured in the same individuals 18 months later. Thus, our behavioral and brain data identify a new cognitive construct that underpins decision-making ability across multiple domains. This construct may be important for understanding mental health, particularly regarding poor social function and aberrant thought patterns.

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