Youths with disruptive behavior disorders, including conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, show major impairments in reinforcement-based decision making. However, the neural basis of these difficulties remains poorly understood. This partly reflects previous failures to differentiate responses during decision making and feedback processing and to take advantage of computational model-based functional MRI (fMRI).
Participants were 38 community youths ages 10–18 (20 had disruptive behavior disorders, and 18 were healthy comparison youths). Model-based fMRI was used to assess the computational processes involved in decision making and feedback processing in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, insula, and caudate.
Youths with disruptive behavior disorders showed reduced use of expected value information within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex when choosing to respond and within the anterior insula when choosing not to respond. In addition, they showed reduced responsiveness to positive prediction errors and increased responsiveness to negative prediction errors within the caudate during feedback.
This study is the first to determine impairments in the use of expected value within the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and insula during choice and in prediction error-signaling within the caudate during feedback in youths with disruptive behavior disorders.