Advantageous economic decision making requires flexible adaptation of gain-based and loss-based preference hierarchies. However, where the neuronal blueprints for economic preference hierarchies are kept and how they may be adapted remains largely unclear. Phasic cortical dopamine release likely mediates flexible adaptation of neuronal representations. In this PET study, cortical-binding potential (BP) for the D(2)-dopamine receptor ligand [(11)C]FLB 457 was examined in healthy participants during multiple sessions of a probabilistic four-choice financial decision-making task with two behavioral variants. In the changing-gains/constant-losses variant, the implicit gain-based preference hierarchy was unceasingly changing, whereas the implicit loss-based preference hierarchy was constant. In the constant-gains/changing-losses variant, it was the other way around. These variants served as paradigms, respectively, contrasting flexible adaptation versus maintenance of loss-based and gain-based preference hierarchies. We observed that in comparison with the constant-gains/changing-losses variant, the changing-gains/constant-losses variant was associated with a decreased D(2)-dopamine receptor-BP in the right lateral frontopolar cortex. In other words, lateral frontopolar D(2)-dopamine receptor stimulation was specifically increased during continuous adaptation of mental representations of gain-based preference hierarchies. This finding provides direct evidence for the existence of a neuronal blueprint of gain-based decision-making in the lateral frontopolar cortex and a crucial role of local dopamine in the flexible adaptation of mental concepts of future behavior.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.