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J Neurosci. 2010 Dec 8;30(49):16567-72. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3933-10.2010.

Dopamine D₁ receptors and nonlinear probability weighting in risky choice.

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Department of Psychiatry, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Misestimating risk could lead to disadvantaged choices such as initiation of drug use (or gambling) and transition to regular drug use (or gambling). Although the normative theory in decision-making under risks assumes that people typically take the probability-weighted expectation over possible utilities, experimental studies of choices among risks suggest that outcome probabilities are transformed nonlinearly into subjective decision weights by a nonlinear weighting function that overweights low probabilities and underweights high probabilities. Recent studies have revealed the neurocognitive mechanism of decision-making under risk. However, the role of modulatory neurotransmission in this process remains unclear. Using positron emission tomography, we directly investigated whether dopamine D₁ and D₂ receptors in the brain are associated with transformation of probabilities into decision weights in healthy volunteers. The binding of striatal D₁ receptors is negatively correlated with the degree of nonlinearity of weighting function. Individuals with lower striatal D₁ receptor density showed more pronounced overestimation of low probabilities and underestimation of high probabilities. This finding should contribute to a better understanding of the molecular mechanism of risky choice, and extreme or impaired decision-making observed in drug and gambling addiction.

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