Background: In this study, we examined the relationships between reward-based decision-making in terms of learning rate, memory rate, exploration rate, and depression-related subjective emotional experience, in terms of interoception and feelings, to understand how reward-based decision-making is impaired in depression. Methods: In all, 52 university students were randomly assigned to an experimental group and a control group. To manipulate interoception, the participants in the experimental group were instructed to tune their internal somatic sense to the skin-conductance-response waveform presented on a display. The participants in the control group were only instructed to stay relaxed. Before and after the manipulation, the participants completed a probabilistic reversal-learning task to assess reward-based decision-making using reinforcement learning modeling. Similarly, participants completed a probe-detection task, a heartbeat-detection task, and self-rated scales. Results: The experimental manipulation of interoception was not successful. In the baseline testing, reinforcement learning modeling indicated a marginally-significant correlation between the exploration rate and depressive symptoms. However, the exploration rate was significantly associated with lower interoceptive attention and higher depressive feeling. Conclusions: The findings suggest that situational characteristics may be closely involved in reward exploration and highlight the clinically-meaningful possibility that intervention for affective processes may impact reward-based decision-making in those with depression.
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