Neural Activation in Risky Decision-Making Tasks in Healthy Older Adults: A Meta-Analysis of fMRI Data

Brain Sci. 2021 Aug 6;11(8):1043. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11081043.


Decision making is a complex cognitive phenomenon commonly used in everyday life. Studies have shown differences in behavioral strategies in risky decision-making tasks over the course of aging. The development of functional neuroimaging has gradually allowed the exploration of the neurofunctional bases of these behaviors. The purpose of our study was to carry out a meta-analysis on the neural networks underlying risky decision making in healthy older adults. Following the PRISMA guidelines, we systematically searched for fMRI studies of decision making in older adults using risky decision-making tasks. To perform the quantitative meta-analysis, we used the revised version of the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) algorithm. A total of 620 references were selected for initial screening. Among these, five studies with a total of 98 cognitively normal older participants (mean age: 69.5 years) were included. The meta-analysis yielded two clusters. Main activations were found in the right insula, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Despite the limited number of studies included, our meta-analysis highlights the crucial involvement of circuits associated with both emotion regulation and the decision to act. However, in contrast to the literature on young adults, our results indicate a different pattern of hemispheric lateralization in older participants. These activations can be used as a minimum pattern of activation in the risky decision-making tasks of healthy older subjects.

Keywords: aging; decision making; fMRI; meta-analysis.

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