Poster B102, Sunday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Enhanced avoidance habits in people with a history of early-life stress
Tara Patterson1, Barbara Knowlton1; 1University of California Los Angeles
Stress has been shown to increase appetitive habit behavior in both humans and nonhuman animals. It is possible that stressful experiences that occur during development may result in a long-lasting bias toward use of the habit learning system, due to the negative effects that stress has on brain regions involved in declarative memory and executive function. We were interested in testing whether people with a history of early-life stress would show a greater tendency toward habit behavior on an avoidance learning task. We conducted two experiments in which we measured self-reported early-life stress in adult participants who learned to make button press responses to avoid hearing aversive noises. After participants were trained on the responses, one of the responses was devalued, and we tested in extinction whether participants persisted in making the devalued response. We found that people who reported high levels of early-life stress were more likely to make the devalued response in extinction compared to people who reported low levels of early-life stress. These data provide support for the hypothesis that early-life stress alters the tendency toward habit responding, and demonstrate the utility of avoidance learning tasks in habit learning research.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Other