Establishing a function for the neuromodulator serotonin in human decision-making has proved remarkably difficult because if its complex role in reward and punishment processing. In a novel choice task where actions led concurrently and independently to the stochastic delivery of both money and pain, we studied the impact of decreased brain serotonin induced by acute dietary tryptophan depletion. Depletion selectively impaired both behavioral and neural representations of reward outcome value, and hence the effective exchange rate by which rewards and punishments were compared. This effect was computationally and anatomically distinct from a separate effect on increasing outcome-independent choice perseveration. Our results provide evidence for a surprising role for serotonin in reward processing, while illustrating its complex and multifarious effects.
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