Development of risk taking: contributions from adolescent testosterone and the orbito-frontal cortex

J Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Dec;25(12):2141-50. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00445. Epub 2013 Jul 16.


The role of puberty in the development of risk taking remains poorly understood. Here, in a normative sample of 268 participants between 8 and 25 years old, we applied a psycho-endocrine neuroimaging approach to investigate the contribution of testosterone levels and OFC morphology to individual differences in risk taking. Risk taking was measured with the balloon analogue risk-taking task. We found that, corrected for age, higher endogenous testosterone level was related to increased risk taking in boys (more explosions) and girls (more money earned). In addition, a smaller medial OFC volume in boys and larger OFC surface area in girls related to more risk taking. A mediation analysis indicated that OFC morphology partly mediates the association between testosterone level and risk taking, independent of age. Mediation was found in such a way that a smaller medial OFC in boys potentiates the association between testosterone and risk taking but suppresses the association in girls. This study provides insights into endocrinological and neural underpinnings of normative development of risk taking, by indicating that OFC morphology, at least partly, mediates the association between testosterone and risk-taking behavior.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / growth & development*
  • Frontal Lobe / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Report*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Testosterone