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J Neurosci. 2006 Jun 14;26(24):6469-72.

Disruption of right prefrontal cortex by low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation induces risk-taking behavior.

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Department of Neurology, PET Center, Division of Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland.


Decisions require careful weighing of the risks and benefits associated with a choice. Some people need to be offered large rewards to balance even minimal risks, whereas others take great risks in the hope for an only minimal benefit. We show here that risk-taking is a modifiable behavior that depends on right hemisphere prefrontal activity. We used low-frequency, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to transiently disrupt left or right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) function before applying a well known gambling paradigm that provides a measure of decision-making under risk. Individuals displayed significantly riskier decision-making after disruption of the right, but not the left, DLPFC. Our findings suggest that the right DLPFC plays a crucial role in the suppression of superficially seductive options. This confirms the asymmetric role of the prefrontal cortex in decision-making and reveals that this fundamental human capacity can be manipulated in normal subjects through cortical stimulation. The ability to modify risk-taking behavior may be translated into therapeutic interventions for disorders such as drug abuse or pathological gambling.

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