Does effort-cost decision-making relate to real-world motivation in people living with HIV?
Castaneda G., Fernandez Cruz AL., Sefranek M., Yau YHC., Brouillette M-J., Mayo NE., Fellows LK.
INTRODUCTION: Low motivation is frequent in older people with HIV, yet poorly understood. Effort-cost decision-making (ECDM) tasks inspired by behavioral economics have shown promise as indicators of motivation or apathy. These tasks assess the willingness to exert effort to earn a monetary reward, providing an estimate of the subjective "cost" of effort for each participant. Here we sought evidence for a relationship between ECDM task performance and self-reported motivation in a cross-sectional study involving 80 middle-aged and older people with well-controlled HIV infection, a chronic health condition with a high burden of mental and cognitive health challenges. METHODS: Participants attending a regular follow-up visit for a Canadian longitudinal study of brain health in HIV completed a computerized ECDM task and a self-report measure of motivation. Other brain health measures were available, collected for the parent study (cognition, depression, anxiety, and vitality, as well as self-reported time spent on real-world leisure activities). RESULTS: Contrary to our hypothesis, we found no relationship between ECDM performance and self-reported motivation. However, those willing to accept higher effort in the ECDM task also reported more time engaged in real-world activities. This association had a small-to-moderate effect size. CONCLUSIONS: The behavioral economics construct of subjective cost of effort, measured with a laboratory ECDM task, does not relate to motivation in people living with chronic HIV. However, the task shows some relationship with real-world goal-directed behavior, suggesting this construct has potential clinical relevance. More work is needed to understand how the subjective cost of effort plays out in clinical symptoms and everyday activities.