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Behav Brain Res. 2011 Feb 2;217(1):67-76. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.09.033. Epub 2010 Oct 7.

Neurobiology of decision-making in adolescents.

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University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, TX 77054, USA.


The study examined the relationship between risk-taking behavior during selection of monetary rewards and activations in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), brain regions that are associated with decision-making. Thirty-three adolescents with no personal or family history of any psychiatric illness were administered the Wheel of Fortune (WOF) task using a functional magnetic resonance imaging protocol. The WOF is a computerized two-choice, probabilistic monetary reward task. Selection of a reward, particularly a low-probability/high-magnitude reward choice, induced greater activations in dorsal ACC, ventrolateral OFC and mPFC than the control condition. Although similar findings have been reported by earlier studies, the results from this study were not impacted by reaction times and expected values and persisted even after controlling for sociodemographic factors. Post hoc analysis revealed greater activation of ACC and mPFC in response to selection of rewards of larger magnitude than those of smaller magnitude when the probability of reward was maintained constant. Adolescents with greater frequency of high-risk behavior (defined as low-probability/high-magnitude reward choice) had lower activation of ACC, OFC and mPFC than those who engaged in this behavior less frequently. These findings suggest individual differences in prefrontal cortical function with regards to decision-making process in adolescents.

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