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Neuropsychologia. 2007 Mar 25;45(6):1270-9. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

Neural substrates of choice selection in adults and adolescents: development of the ventrolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices.

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  • 1Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-2670, USA.


A heightened propensity for risk-taking and poor decision-making underlies the peak morbidity and mortality rates reported during adolescence. Delayed maturation of cortical structures during the adolescent years has been proposed as a possible explanation for this observation. Here, we test the hypothesis of adolescent delayed maturation by using fMRI during a monetary decision-making task that directly examines risk-taking behavior during choice selection. Orbitofrontal/ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (OFC/VLPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were examined selectively since both have been implicated in reward-related processes, cognitive control, and resolution of conflicting decisions. Group comparisons revealed greater activation in the OFC/VLPFC (BA 47) and dorsal ACC (BA 32) in adults than adolescents when making risky selections. Furthermore, reduced activity in these areas correlated with greater risk-taking performance in adolescents and in the combined group. Consistent with predictions, these results suggest that adolescents engage prefrontal regulatory structures to a lesser extent than adults when making risky economic choices.

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