Age-dependent Pavlovian biases influence motor decision-making

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Description: Decisions in everyday life often require weighing the probability of successfully executing an action (e.g., successfully crossing a street) against potential rewards and punishments. Although older individuals take fewer risks during such motor decision-making scenarios, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Similar age-related changes in economic decision-making are explained by a decrease in Pavlovian attraction toward reward. However, despite the role of Pavlovian biases in linking action with reward and avoidance with punishment, their impact on motor decision-making is unclear. To address this, we developed a novel app-based motor decision-making task (n=26,532). We found that motor decision-making was subject to Pavlovian influences. Although we found age-related changes for both punishment and reward-based decision-making processes, the most striking effect of ageing was a decrease in the facilitatory effect of Pavlovian attraction on action in pursuit of reward. Using data from an independent economic decision task in the same individuals (n=17,220), we demonstrate similar decision-making tendencies for motor and economic domains across a majority of age groups. Hence, Pavlovian biases play an essential role in not only explaining motor decision-making behaviour but also the changes which occur through normal ageing.

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