Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Dirk Geurts (Donders series 275)

4 may 2017

Promotors: prof. dr. R. Cools, prof. dr. R. Verkes
Copromotor: dr. H. van den Ouden

Translational Psychiatry: when effect motivates effect

Adaptive decision-making involves interaction between systems regulating Pavlovian and instrumental control of behaviour. I assessed the neurobiological underpinnings of this Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT) in healthy participants, psychopathic criminals and patients with borderline personality disorder. In healthy participants I found that serotonin is selectively involved in Pavlovian inhibition due to aversive expectations (i.e. aversive PIT). Moreover, I found that aversive PIT is accompanied by frontostriatal and amygdalar processing. In patients with borderline personality disorder I showed that symptom improvement one year after the start of treatment can be predicted based on aversive PIT-related amygdala signal. In psychopathic criminals we showed that more severe psychopathy was accompanied by less aversive inhibition. In addition, I establishedthat incarcerated psychopathic criminals can be dissociated from noncriminal individuals with comparable impulsive/antisocial personality tendencies based on the degree to which reward-related brain regions interact with brain regions that control behaviour. Together, the above results have implications for our understanding of the neurocognitive underpinnings of a range of affective, impulsive and aggressive neuropsychiatric disorders.