Neural correlates of decision making with explicit information about probabilities and incentives in elderly healthy subjects

Exp Brain Res. 2008 Jun;187(4):641-50. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1332-x. Epub 2008 Mar 5.


Recent functional neuroimaging and lesion studies demonstrate the involvement of the orbitofrontal/ventromedial prefrontal cortex as a key structure in decision making processes. This region seems to be particularly crucial when contingencies between options and consequences are unknown but have to be learned by the use of feedback following previous decisions (decision making under ambiguity). However, little is known about the neural correlates of decision making under risk conditions in which information about probabilities and potential outcomes is given. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) responses in 12 subjects during a decision making task. This task provided explicit information about probabilities and associated potential incentives. The responses were compared to BOLD signals in a control condition without information about incentives. In contrast to previous decision making studies, we completely removed the outcome phase following a decision to exclude the potential influence of feedback previously received on current decisions. The results indicate that the integration of information about probabilities and incentives leads to activations within the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the posterior parietal lobe, the anterior cingulate and the right lingual gyrus. We assume that this pattern of activation is due to the involvement of executive functions, conflict detection mechanisms and arithmetic operations during the deliberation phase of decisional processes that are based on explicit information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Probability*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology


  • Oxygen