Brain Science Advances


pain, decision-making, Iowa Gambling Task


Emotion toward anticipated and actual outcomes acts as a vital signal on emotional decision-making, and the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) can mimic this decision-making process. Pain can impair emotional decision-making behaviors because it captures attention and distracts from the task at hand. Alternatively, pain may facilitate emotional decision-making behaviors by prompting alertness and mobilizing cognitive resources to maximize rewards. The present study investigated the influence of ongoing pain on emotional decision-making behaviors using the IGT. Our study recruited two groups of participants and applied capsaicin (pain group) or control cream (control group) to their forearms. We then compared performances and selections between the pain and control groups. The results revealed that participants successfully learned the required adaptive selection strategy as the task progressed. The study observed a tendency toward optimal choices for both groups under the condition of frequent-small losses. However, we observed a disadvantageous preference for the control group, but not the pain group, when faced with choices with infrequent but large losses. The study implies that a distressing pain experience motivates individuals to adjust goal-directed behaviors to maximize their rewards in a task. Thus, the finding suggests that ongoing pain facilitates emotional decision-making behaviors.