Multiple neural mechanisms of decision making and their competition under changing risk pressure

Neuron. 2014 Mar 5;81(5):1190-1202. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.01.033.


Sometimes when a choice is made, the outcome is not guaranteed and there is only a probability of its occurrence. Each individual's attitude to probability, sometimes called risk proneness or aversion, has been assumed to be static. Behavioral ecological studies, however, suggest such attitudes are dynamically modulated by the context an organism finds itself in; in some cases, it may be optimal to pursue actions with a low probability of success but which are associated with potentially large gains. We show that human subjects rapidly adapt their use of probability as a function of current resources, goals, and opportunities for further foraging. We demonstrate that dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) carries signals indexing the pressure to pursue unlikely choices and signals related to the taking of such choices. We show that dACC exerts this control over behavior when it, rather than ventromedial prefrontal cortex, interacts with posterior cingulate cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / cytology
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Probability
  • Reward
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Young Adult