Lasting Impact of Regret and Gratification on Resting Brain Activity and Its Relation to Depressive Traits
Obtaining lower gains than rejected alternatives during decision making evokes feelings of regret, whereas higher gains elicit gratification. Although decision-related emotions produce lingering effects on mental state, neuroscience research has generally focused on transient brain responses to positive or negative events, but ignored more sustained consequences of emotional episodes on subsequent brain states. We investigated how spontaneous brain activity and functional connectivity at rest are modulated by postdecision regret and gratification in 18 healthy human subjects using a gambling task in fMRI. Differences between obtained and unobtained outcomes were manipulated parametrically to evoke different levels of regret or gratification. We investigated how individual personality traits related to depression and rumination affected these responses. Medial and ventral prefrontal areas differentially responded to favorable and unfavorable outcomes during the gambling period. More critically, during subsequent rest, rostral anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, ventral striatum, and insula showed parametric response to the gratification level of preceding outcomes. Functional coupling of posterior cingulate with striatum and amygdala was also enhanced during rest after high gratification. Regret produced distinct changes in connectivity of subgenual cingulate with orbitofrontal cortex and thalamus. Interestingly, individual differences in depressive traits and ruminations correlated with activity of the striatum after gratification and orbitofrontal cortex after regret, respectively. By revealing lingering effects of decision-related emotions on key nodes of resting state networks, our findings illuminate how such emotions may influence self-reflective processing and subsequent behavioral adjustment, but also highlight the malleability of resting networks in emotional contexts.