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Front Neurosci. 2012 Nov 2;6:159. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00159. eCollection 2012.

Toward an affective neuroscience account of financial risk taking.

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1
Department of Psychology, Stanford University Stanford, CA, USA.

Abstract

To explain human financial risk taking, economic, and finance theories typically refer to the mathematical properties of financial options, whereas psychological theories have emphasized the influence of emotion and cognition on choice. From a neuroscience perspective, choice emanates from a dynamic multicomponential process. Recent technological advances in neuroimaging have made it possible for researchers to separately visualize perceptual input, intermediate processing, and motor output. An affective neuroscience account of financial risk taking thus might illuminate affective mediators that bridge the gap between statistical input and choice output. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a quantitative meta-analysis (via activation likelihood estimate or ALE) of functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments that focused on neural responses to financial options with varying statistical moments (i.e., mean, variance, skewness). Results suggested that different statistical moments elicit both common and distinct patterns of neural activity. Across studies, high versus low mean had the highest probability of increasing ventral striatal activity, but high versus low variance had the highest probability of increasing anterior insula activity. Further, high versus low skewness had the highest probability of increasing ventral striatal activity. Since ventral striatal activity has been associated with positive aroused affect (e.g., excitement), whereas anterior insular activity has been associated with negative aroused affect (e.g., anxiety) or general arousal, these findings are consistent with the notion that statistical input influences choice output by eliciting anticipatory affect. The findings also imply that neural activity can be used to predict financial risk taking - both when it conforms to and violates traditional models of choice.

KEYWORDS:

FMRI; accumbens; activation likelihood estimation; insula; meta-analysis; neuroeconomics; neurofinance; striatum

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