Intact goal-directed control in treatment-seeking drug users indexed by outcome-devaluation and Pavlovian to instrumental transfer: critique of habit theory

Lee Hogarth*, Christa Lam-Cassettari, Helena Pacitti, Tara Currah, Justin Mahlberg, Lucie Hartley, Ahmed Moustafa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Animal studies have demonstrated that chronic exposure to drugs of abuse impairs goal-directed control over action selection indexed by the outcome-devaluation and specific Pavlovian to instrumental transfer procedures, suggesting this impairment might underpin addiction. However, there is currently only weak evidence for impaired goal-directed control in human drug users. Two experiments were undertaken in which treatment-seeking drug users and non-matched normative reference samples (controls) completed outcome-devaluation and specific Pavlovian to instrumental transfer procedures notionally translatable to animal procedures (Experiment 2 used a more challenging biconditional schedule). The two experiments found significant outcome-devaluation and specific Pavlovian to instrumental transfer effects overall and there was no significant difference between groups in the magnitude of these effects. Moreover, Bayes factor supported the null hypothesis for these group comparisons. Although limited by non-matched group comparisons and small sample sizes, the two studies suggest that treatment-seeking drug users have intact goal-directed control over action selection, adding uncertainty to already mixed evidence concerning the role of habit learning in human drug dependence. Neuro-interventions might seek to tackle goal-directed drug-seeking rather than habit formation in drug users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2513-2525
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes

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