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BACKGROUND: Volatile interpersonal relationships are a core feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and lead to devastating disruption of patients' personal and professional lives. Quantitative models of social decision making and learning hold promise for defining the underlying mechanisms of this problem. In this study, we tested BPD and control subject weighting of social versus nonsocial information and their learning about choices under stable and volatile conditions. We compared behavior using quantitative models. METHODS: Subjects (n = 20 BPD, n = 23 control subjects) played an extended reward learning task with a partner (confederate) that requires learning about nonsocial and social cue reward probability (the social valuation task). Task experience was measured using language metrics: explicit emotions/beliefs, talk about the confederate, and implicit distress (using the previously established marker self-referentiality). Subjects' weighting of social and nonsocial cues was tested in mixed-effect regression models. Subjects' learning rates under stable and volatile conditions were modeled (Rescorla-Wagner approach) and group × condition interactions tested. RESULTS: Compared to control subjects, BPD subject debriefings included more mentions of the confederate and less distress language. BPD subjects also weighted social cues more heavily but had blunted learning responses to (nonsocial and social) volatility. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first report of patient behavior in the social valuation task. The results suggest that BPD subjects expect higher volatility than control subjects. These findings lay the groundwork for a neurocomputational dissection of social and nonsocial belief updating in BPD, which holds promise for the development of novel clinical interventions that more directly target pathophysiology.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.05.020

Type

Journal article

Journal

Biol Psychiatry

Publication Date

05/06/2018

Keywords

Associative learning, Borderline personality disorder, Computational psychiatry, Prediction error, Social cognition, Trust