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J Neurosci Psychol Econ. 2010 May 1;3(1):15-26.

Now or later? Striatum and insula activation to immediate versus delayed rewards.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, San Diego.


Neuroimaging studies on delay discounting tasks that use reward delays ranging from minutes to days have implicated the insula and striatum in the processing of inter-temporal decisions. This study aimed at assessing whether these brain regions would also be involved in decision-making when subjects have to wait through the delays within the range of seconds. Employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in thirteen healthy volunteers, we repeatedly presented monetaryoptions with delays that differed within the range of multiple seconds. Using a region of interest approach, we found significant activation in the bilateral anterior insula and striatum when subjects chose either the immediate (smaller) or delayed (larger) option. In particular, insular activation was observed after the response and the delay, when the outcome of the immediate or the delayed choice was shown. Significantly greater activation was observed in the ventroanterior striatum while subjects chose the immediate, as opposed to the delayed, options, and also after receiving the outcome of waiting through the longer delay option. The evidence presented here indicates that both the ventral striatum and the insula are involved in the processing of choosing delay options as well as the consequences of choices with delays in the seconds' range.

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