Transcranial alternating current stimulation increases risk-taking behavior in the balloon analog risk task

Front Neurosci. 2012 Feb 14;6:22. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00022. eCollection 2012.


The process of evaluating risks and benefits involves a complex neural network that includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). It has been proposed that in conflict and reward situations, theta-band (4-8 Hz) oscillatory activity in the frontal cortex may reflect an electrophysiological mechanism for coordinating neural networks monitoring behavior, as well as facilitating task-specific adaptive changes. The goal of the present study was to investigate the hypothesis that theta-band oscillatory balance between right and left frontal and prefrontal regions, with a predominance role to the right hemisphere (RH), is crucial for regulatory control during decision-making under risk. In order to explore this hypothesis, we used transcranial alternating current stimulation, a novel technique that provides the opportunity to explore the functional role of neuronal oscillatory activities and to establish a causal link between specific oscillations and functional lateralization in risky decision-making situations. For this aim, healthy participants were randomly allocated to one of three stimulation groups (LH stimulation/RH stimulation/Sham stimulation), with active AC stimulation delivered in a frequency-dependent manner (at 6.5 Hz; 1 mA peak-to-peak). During the AC stimulation, participants performed the Balloon Analog Risk Task. This experiment revealed that participants receiving LH stimulation displayed riskier decision-making style compared to sham and RH stimulation groups. However, there was no difference in decision-making behaviors between sham and RH stimulation groups. The current study extends the notion that DLPFC activity is critical for adaptive decision-making in the context of risk-taking and emphasis the role of theta-band oscillatory activity during risky decision-making situations.

Keywords: BART; DLPFC; lateralization; risk-taking; theta-band oscillations.