The development of alcohol habits is considered a form of maladaptive reinforced learning, with sustained alcohol use resulting in the strengthening of associative links between consumption and either rewarding, or the lack of aversive, experiences. Despite recent efforts in characterizing decision-making skills in alcohol-use-disorder (AUD), it is still unknown whether impaired behavioural learning in AUD patients reflects a defective processing and anticipation of choice-related, cognitively mediated, emotions such as regret or relief for what might have been under a different choice. We administered a Wheel-of-Fortune (WoF) task to 26 AUD patients and 19 healthy controls, to investigate possible alterations in adjusting choices to the magnitude of experienced regret/relief, and in other facets of decision-making performance such as choice latency. AUD patients displayed both longer deliberation time than healthy controls, and impaired adaptations to previous outcome-related negative emotions. Although further evidence is needed to unveil the cognitive mechanisms underlying AUD patients’ abnormal choice, the present results highlight important implications for the clinical practice, e.g. in terms of cognitive treatments aiming to shape faulty perceptions about negative emotions associated with excessive alcohol exposure.
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