Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
Meta-Analysis
. 2010 May 12;30(19):6613-9.
doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0003-10.2010.

Neural Processing of Risk

Affiliations
Free PMC article
Meta-Analysis

Neural Processing of Risk

Peter N C Mohr et al. J Neurosci. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

In our everyday life, we often have to make decisions with risky consequences, such as choosing a restaurant for dinner or choosing a form of retirement saving. To date, however, little is known about how the brain processes risk. Recent conceptualizations of risky decision making highlight that it is generally associated with emotions but do not specify how emotions are implicated in risk processing. Moreover, little is known about risk processing in non-choice situations and how potential losses influence risk processing. Here we used quantitative meta-analyses of functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments on risk processing in the brain to investigate (1) how risk processing is influenced by emotions, (2) how it differs between choice and non-choice situations, and (3) how it changes when losses are possible. By showing that, over a range of experiments and paradigms, risk is consistently represented in the anterior insula, a brain region known to process aversive emotions such as anxiety, disappointment, or regret, we provide evidence that risk processing is influenced by emotions. Furthermore, our results show risk-related activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex in choice situations but not in situations in which no choice is involved or a choice has already been made. The anterior insula was predominantly active in the presence of potential losses, indicating that potential losses modulate risk processing.

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Neural representations of risk. Results from an ALE meta-analysis on risk independent of the context (decision risk or anticipation risk) and the domain (gains + losses or only gains in which risk was investigated). Activated clusters included bilateral aINS, DMPFC, and thalamus (FDR of <0.05; cluster size of >200 mm3).
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Neural representations of decision risk and anticipation risk. A, Risk activated bilateral aINS and DMPFC in both a meta-analysis on decision risk and a meta-analysis on anticipation risk (although there is in all cases only a small overlap). Right DLPFC and right parietal cortex (both not displayed) were solely activated by decision risk. B, Right aINS, right DLPFC (not displayed), DMPFC, and right parietal cortex (not displayed) were more likely to be activated by decision risk compared with anticipation risk in a meta-analysis on the contrast between the two contexts in which risk was investigated. Left aINS, in contrast, was more likely to be activated by anticipation risk.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Domain-specific neural representations of risk. A, Risk investigated in tasks that included both the gain and the loss domain activated bilateral aINS, DMPFC, and thalamus. In contrast, risk representations investigated only in the gain domain only include right aINS and DMPFC. B, Left aINS was more likely to be activated if both gains and losses were possible outcomes, whereas DMPFC was more likely to be activated if only gains were possible.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
A potential mechanism of risky decision making. A risky stimulus such as a gamble with uncertain outcomes or a choice menu with different financial investments is initially evaluated on an emotional level. Activity in the aINS thereby serves as an estimate for the potential of the risky stimulus to result in an unwanted outcome, whereas the thalamus reflects important aspects of potential outcomes (e.g., their variability). At the cognitive level, the risky stimulus is processed in the DMPFC. Both parts of risk processing (emotional and cognitive) inform the actual decision process performed in DLPFC and parietal cortex. In situations, in which no decision has to be made, such as in the bingo game, the process concludes after emotional and cognitive risk processing.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 116 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback