Dissociable Neural Processes Underlying Risky Decisions for Self Versus Other

Laboratory of Social and Decision Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Engineering, Korea University Seoul, South Korea.
Frontiers in Neuroscience 01/2013; 7:15. DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00015
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Previous neuroimaging studies on decision making have mainly focused on decisions on behalf of oneself. Considering that people often make decisions on behalf of others, it is intriguing that there is little neurobiological evidence on how decisions for others differ from those for oneself. The present study directly compared risky decisions for self with those for another person using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were asked to perform a gambling task on behalf of themselves (decision-for-self condition) or another person (decision-for-other condition) while in the scanner. Their task was to choose between a low-risk option (i.e., win or lose 10 points) and a high-risk option (i.e., win or lose 90 points) with variable levels of winning probability. Compared with choices regarding others, those regarding oneself were more risk-averse at lower winning probabilities and more risk-seeking at higher winning probabilities, perhaps due to stronger affective process during risky decisions for oneself compared with those for other. The brain-activation pattern changed according to the target, such that reward-related regions were more active in the decision-for-self condition than in the decision-for-other condition, whereas brain regions related to the theory of mind (ToM) showed greater activation in the decision-for-other condition than in the decision-for-self condition. Parametric modulation analysis using individual decision models revealed that activation of the amygdala and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) were associated with value computations for oneself and for another, respectively, during risky financial decisions. The results of the present study suggest that decisions for oneself and for other may recruit fundamentally distinct neural processes, which can be mainly characterized as dominant affective/impulsive and cognitive/regulatory processes, respectively.

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