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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e36953. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036953. Epub 2012 May 24.

Reduced sensitivity to immediate reward during decision-making in older than younger adults.

Author information

Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America. eppinger@mpib-berlin.mpg


We examined whether older adults differ from younger adults in the degree to which they favor immediate over delayed rewards during decision-making. To examine the neural correlates of age-related differences in delay discounting we acquired functional MR images while participants made decisions between smaller but sooner and larger but later monetary rewards. The behavioral results show age-related reductions in delay discounting. Less impulsive decision-making in older adults was associated with lower ventral striatal activations to immediate reward. Furthermore, older adults showed an overall higher percentage of delayed choices and reduced activity in the dorsal striatum than younger adults. This points to a reduced reward sensitivity of the dorsal striatum in older adults. Taken together, our findings indicate that less impulsive decision-making in older adults is due to a reduced sensitivity of striatal areas to reward. These age-related changes in reward sensitivity may result from transformations in dopaminergic neuromodulation with age.

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