A hallmark of negative symptoms in schizophrenia is reduced motivation and goal directed behavior. While preclinical models suggest that blunted striatal dopamine levels can produce such reductions, this mechanism is inconsistent with evidence for enhanced striatal dopamine levels in schizophrenia. In seeking to reconcile this discrepancy, one possibility is that negative symptoms reflect a failure of striatal motivational systems to mobilize appropriately in response to reward-related information. In the present study, we used a laboratory effort-based decision-making task in a sample of patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls to examine allocation of effort in exchange for varying levels of monetary reward. We found that patients and controls did not differ in the overall amount of effort expenditure, but patients made significantly less optimal choices in terms of maximizing rewards. These results provide further evidence for a selective deficit in the ability of schizophrenia patients to utilize environmental cues to guide reward-seeking behavior.
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