19 September 2018: Decision-making impairment in long-term opioid users

Kathryn Biernacki
Centre for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience
Rutgers University Newark

Opioid users often demonstrate substantial decision-making impairments, which not only impair everyday functioning, but may also hinder treatment success and contribute to relapse in this population. However, it is still unclear what underlying factors may contribute to this deficit. In this talk, I will discuss the results of a meta-analysis of decision-making in opioid use disorder (OUD), as well as the results behavioral and psychophysiological experiments examining the potential underlying contributors to the decision-making impairment in long-term opioid users. Briefly, the results of the meta-analysis indicated that the decision-making impairment in opioid users is relatively severe. Further, the psychophysiological experiment revealed that the impairment is not due to an impairment in emotional signaling, while the behavioral experiment demonstrated that this impairment may be more restricted to specific decision-making scenarios (i.e., risky compared to ambiguous situations). I will also present some preliminary data regarding computational modelling of decision-making in OUD, as well as other substance use disorders.  By taking a computational psychiatry approach to OUD, this research program may help to identify specific components of decision-making that become impaired in this group and may inform future treatment practice to better support opioid users.