Reduced willingness to invest effort in schizophrenia with high negative symptoms regardless of reward stimulus presentation and reward value


Background: Negative symptoms in schizophrenia, which are related to poor functioning, are thought to be grounded on aberrant functioning in the reward system. We aimed to disentangle how negative symptoms and two cognitive aspects of goal-directed behavior, mental representation of reward and reward value, affect willingness to invest effort to attain a reward in schizophrenia. Aims and procedures: To this purpose, 43 schizophrenia patients and 35 healthy controls were assessed for negative symptoms and general functioning, and completed an effort-based reward task. Patients were split in high and low negative symptoms scorers. A series of ANOVA tests were conducted in order to test the effects of group controlling for representation of reward (Task 1) and balance between reward value and effort (Task 2) on will to invest effort to attain a reward. Main findings: Schizophrenia patients with high negative symptoms chose to invest lower amounts of effort for a reward compared both to low negative symptoms patients and to controls in both tasks. Neither mental representation of reward (Task 1) nor reward value (Task 2) did differentially affect will to invest effort between-groups. Conclusions: These findings suggest that the lower willingness to invest effort observed in schizophrenia patients with high negative symptoms may not be related to cognitive aspects of goal-oriented behavior.

Comprehensive Psychiatry