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Older adults fail to form stable task representations during model-based reversal inference
AuthorHämmerer, Dorothea ; Schwartenbeck, Philipp ; Gallagher, Maria ; FitzGerald, Thomas Henry Benedict ; Düzel, Emrah ; Dolan, Raymond Joseph
Published in
Neurobiology of Aging, Amsterdam, 2019, Vol. 74, page 90-100
PublishedAmsterdam : Elsevier, 2019
Document typeJournal Article
Keywords (EN)Decision-making / Task representations / Pupillometry / Model-based inference / Aging / Feedback evaluation
URNurn:nbn:at:at-ubs:3-10443 Persistent Identifier (URN)
 The work is publicly available
Older adults fail to form stable task representations during model-based reversal inference [1.43 mb]
Abstract (English)

Older adults struggle in dealing with changeable and uncertain environments across several cognitive domains. This has been attributed to difficulties in forming adequate task representations that help navigate uncertain environments. Here, we investigate how, in older adults, inadequate task representations impact on model-based reversal learning. We combined computational modeling and pupillometry during a novel model-based reversal learning task, which allowed us to isolate the relevance of task representations at feedback evaluation. We find that older adults overestimate the changeability of task states and consequently are less able to converge on unequivocal task representations through learning. Pupillometric measures and behavioral data show that these unreliable task representations in older adults manifest as a reduced ability to focus on feedback that is relevant for updating task representations, and as a reduced metacognitive awareness in the accuracy of their actions. Instead, the data suggested older adults' choice behavior was more consistent with a guidance by uninformative feedback properties such as outcome valence. Our study highlights that an inability to form adequate task representations may be a crucial factor underlying older adults' impaired model-based inference.

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