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      Improved human visuomotor performance and pupil constriction after choline supplementation in a placebo-controlled double-blind study

      a , 1 , 2 , 1 , 2 , 1 , 2

      Scientific Reports

      Nature Publishing Group

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          Abstract

          Only few nutrients are known to enhance cognition. Here we explore whether visuomotor performance can be improved through the intake of the nutrient choline, an essential chemical compound in a vertebrate’s diet. Choline is abundant in for example eggs and shrimps and many animal studies suggest that it serves as a cognitive enhancer. As choline is important for the communication between motor neurons and the control of skeletal muscles, we assumed that choline supplementation may have positive effects on action coordination in humans. A group of twenty-eight individuals ingested two grams of choline bitartrate or a placebo in two separate sessions. Seventy minutes post ingestion, participants performed a visuomotor aiming task in which they had to rapidly hit the centers of targets. Results showed that participants hit targets more centrally after choline supplementation. Pupil size (a cognition-sensitive biomarker) also significantly decreased after choline intake and correlated positively with the hit distance to the targets and the number of target misses, and negatively with reaction times. These findings point to a choline-induced bias towards action precision in the trade-off between speed and accuracy. The changes in pupil size suggest that choline uptake alters cholinergic functions in the nervous system.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Pupil diameter tracks changes in control state predicted by the adaptive gain theory of locus coeruleus function.

          An important dimension of cognitive control is the adaptive regulation of the balance between exploitation (pursuing known sources of reward) and exploration (seeking new ones) in response to changes in task utility. Recent studies have suggested that the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system may play an important role in this function and that pupil diameter can be used to index locus coeruleus activity. On the basis of this, we reasoned that pupil diameter may correlate closely with control state and associated changes in behavior. Specifically, we predicted that increases in baseline pupil diameter would be associated with decreases in task utility and disengagement from the task (exploration), whereas reduced baseline diameter (but increases in task-evoked dilations) would be associated with task engagement (exploitation). Findings in three experiments were consistent with these predictions, suggesting that pupillometry may be useful as an index of both control state and, indirectly, locus coeruleus function.
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            Pupil diameter predicts changes in the exploration-exploitation trade-off: evidence for the adaptive gain theory.

            The adaptive regulation of the balance between exploitation and exploration is critical for the optimization of behavioral performance. Animal research and computational modeling have suggested that changes in exploitative versus exploratory control state in response to changes in task utility are mediated by the neuromodulatory locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system. Recent studies have suggested that utility-driven changes in control state correlate with pupil diameter, and that pupil diameter can be used as an indirect marker of LC activity. We measured participants' pupil diameter while they performed a gambling task with a gradually changing payoff structure. Each choice in this task can be classified as exploitative or exploratory using a computational model of reinforcement learning. We examined the relationship between pupil diameter, task utility, and choice strategy (exploitation vs. exploration), and found that (i) exploratory choices were preceded by a larger baseline pupil diameter than exploitative choices; (ii) individual differences in baseline pupil diameter were predictive of an individual's tendency to explore; and (iii) changes in pupil diameter surrounding the transition between exploitative and exploratory choices correlated with changes in task utility. These findings provide novel evidence that pupil diameter correlates closely with control state, and are consistent with a role for the LC-NE system in the regulation of the exploration-exploitation trade-off in humans.
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              The left frontal lobe of man and the suppression of habitual responses in verbal categorical behaviour.

               E Perret (1974)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group
                2045-2322
                14 August 2015
                2015
                : 5
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Leiden University, Cognitive Psychology , Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden, 2333 AK, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University Medical Center , P.O. Box 9600, Leiden, 2300 RC, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                Article
                srep13188
                10.1038/srep13188
                4536529
                26271904
                Copyright © 2015, Macmillan Publishers Limited

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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