A Primer on Foraging and the Explore/Exploit Trade-Off for Psychiatry Research.
Foraging is a fundamental behavior, and many types of animals appear to have solved foraging problems using a shared set of mechanisms. Perhaps the most common foraging problem is the choice between exploiting a familiar option for a known reward and exploring unfamiliar options for unknown rewards-the so-called explore/exploit trade-off. This trade-off has been studied extensively in behavioral ecology and computational neuroscience, but is relatively new to the field of psychiatry. Explore/exploit paradigms can offer psychiatry research a new approach to studying motivation, outcome valuation, and effort-related processes, which are disrupted in many mental and emotional disorders. In addition, the explore/exploit trade-off encompasses elements of risk-taking and impulsivity-common behaviors in psychiatric disorders-and provides a novel framework for understanding these behaviors within an ecological context. Here we explain relevant concepts and some common paradigms used to measure explore/exploit decisions in the laboratory, review clinically relevant research on the neurobiology and neuroanatomy of explore/exploit decision making, and discuss how computational psychiatry can benefit from foraging theory.
Addicott, MA; Pearson, JM; Sweitzer, MM; Barack, DL; Platt, ML
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