Neurocomputational mechanisms underlying fear-biased adaptation learning in changing environments

Zhihao Wang, Tian Nan, Katharina S. Goerlich, Yiman Li, André Aleman, Yuejia Luo, Pengfei Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


AU Humans: Please confirm that all heading levels are represented correctly are able to adapt to the fast-changing world by estimating : statistical regularities of the environment. Although fear can profoundly impact adaptive behaviors, the computational and neural mechanisms underlying this phenomenon remain elusive. Here, we conducted a behavioral experiment (n = 21) and a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment (n = 37) with a novel cue-biased adaptation learning task, during which we simultaneously manipulated emotional valence (fearful/neutral expressions of the cue) and environmental volatility (frequent/infrequent reversals of reward probabilities). Across 2 experiments, computational modeling consistently revealed a higher learning rate for the environment with frequent versus infrequent reversals following neutral cues. In contrast, this flexible adjustment was absent in the environment with fearful cues, suggesting a suppressive role of fear in adaptation to environmental volatility. This suppressive effect was underpinned by activity of the ventral striatum, hippocampus, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) as well as increased functional connectivity between the dACC and temporal-parietal junction (TPJ) for fear with environmental volatility. Dynamic causal modeling identified that the driving effect was located in the TPJ and was associated with dACC activation, suggesting that the suppression of fear on adaptive behaviors occurs at the early stage of bottom-up processing. These findings provide a neuro-computational account of how fear interferes with adaptation to volatility during dynamic environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3001724
Number of pages26
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May-2023

Cite this