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Risk and Reward Are Processed Differently in Decisions Made Under Stress


Years of research have shown that stress influences cognition. Most of this research has focused on how stress affects memory and the hippocampus. However, stress also affects other regions involved in cognitive and emotional processing, including the prefrontal cortex, striatum, and insula. New research examining the impact of stress on decision processes reveals two consistent findings. First, acute stress enhances selection of previously rewarding outcomes but impairs avoidance of previously negative outcomes, possibly due to stress-induced changes in dopamine in reward-processing brain regions. Second, stress amplifies gender differences in strategies used during risky decisions, as males take more risk and females take less risk under stress. These gender differences in behavior are associated with differences in activity in the insula and dorsal striatum, brain regions involved in computing risk and preparing to take action.

I've not read this paper, but it's been in the media recently, and it made me think about the way in which people are likely to respond, were they to suffer from some restriction in capabilities, and how this would interact with the psychosocial approach to CFS.

It increasingly seems to me encouraging patients to believe that recovery is under personal control, that deconditioning of a fear/anxiety response to activity is the cause of their disability, etc, is likely to be exactly the wrong thing to do, even if you accept the starting assumptions of a biopsychosocial approach to medicine.

Unfortunately I'm really busy (and have a cold), so I'm also just posting this link also in order to remind me to read the study properly when I have a chance (I've got a long and growing list of reading).