Common and distinct neural correlates of intertemporal and risky decision-making: Meta-analytical evidence for the dual-system theory

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2022 Oct:141:104851. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2022.104851. Epub 2022 Sep 1.


The relationship between intertemporal and risky decision-making has received considerable attention in decision research. Single-process theories suggest that choices involving delay and risk are simply two manifestations of the same psychological mechanism, which implies similar patterns of neural activation. Conversely, the dual-system theory suggests that delayed and risky choices are two contrasting types of processes, which implies distinct brain networks. How these two types of choices relate to each other remains unclear. The current study addressed this issue by performing a meta-analysis of 28 intertemporal decision-making studies (862 subjects) and 51 risky decision-making studies (1539 subjects). We found no common area activated in the conjunction analysis of the delayed and risky rewards. Based on the contrast analysis, delayed rewards were associated with stronger activation in the left dorsal insula, while risky rewards were associated with activation in the bilateral ventral striatum and the right anterior insula. The results align with the dual-system theory with separate neural networks for delayed and risky rewards.

Keywords: ALE; Dual-system theory; Intertemporal decision-making; Meta-analysis; Risky decision-making.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology
  • Decision Making* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Reward