Learning from gain and loss: Links to suicide risk

Author Department

Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Despite preliminary evidence that people with suicide attempt histories demonstrate deficits in processing feedback, no studies have examined the interrelations of learning from feedback and emotional state on suicide risk. This study examined the influence of suicide risk and negative emotions on learning accuracy and rates among individuals with a range of borderline personality features (N = 145). Participants completed a reinforcement learning task after neutral and negative emotion inductions. Results revealed interactions between suicide risk and emotion condition, with elevated risk linked to greater increases in loss learning rate (training phase models) and gain learning rate (test phase models) post-negative emotion induction. Emotion-dependent fluctuations in learning performance may be markers of decision-making that are associated with greater suicide risk. This line of work has the potential to identify the contexts that confer greater risk for suicidal behaviors.

Keywords: Learning; Punishment; Reward; Suicide.