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Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Jan;15(1):11-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Dec 2.

Mind the gap: bridging economic and naturalistic risk-taking with cognitive neuroscience.

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Imaging Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78759, USA.


Economists define risk in terms of the variability of possible outcomes, whereas clinicians and laypeople generally view risk as exposure to possible loss or harm. Neuroeconomic studies using relatively simple behavioral tasks have identified a network of brain regions that respond to economic risk, but these studies have had limited success predicting naturalistic risk-taking. By contrast, more complex behavioral tasks developed by clinicians (e.g. Balloon Analogue Risk Task and Iowa Gambling Task) correlate with naturalistic risk-taking but resist decomposition into distinct cognitive constructs. We propose here that to bridge this gap and better understand neural substrates of naturalistic risk-taking, new tasks are needed that: are decomposable into basic cognitive and/or economic constructs; predict naturalistic risk-taking; and engender dynamic, affective engagement.

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