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Eur J Neurosci. 2013 Apr;37(7):1159-68. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12108. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

Slow cortical potentials capture decision processes during temporal discounting.

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Department of Basic Psychological Research and Research Methods, Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Various neuroimaging studies have detected brain regions involved in discounting the value of temporally delayed rewards. This study used slow cortical potentials (SCPs) to elaborate the time course of cognitive processing during temporal discounting. Depending on their strength of discounting, subjects were categorised as low and high impulsive. Low impulsives, but not high impulsives, showed faster reaction times for making decisions when the delayed reward was of high amount than when it was of low amount. Both low impulsives and high impulsives chose the delayed reward more often when its amount was high than when it was low, but this behavior was more pronounced for low impulsives. Moreover, only low impulsives showed more negative SCPs for low than for high amounts. All three measures indicated that only low impulsives experienced extended conflict for delayed low amounts than for high amounts. Additionally, the SCPs of low impulsives were more sensitive to the delay of the delayed reward than those of high impulsives, extending seconds after the response. This indicates that they continued evaluating their choices even after the decision. Altogether, the present study demonstrated that SCPs are sensitive to decision-related resource allocation during inter-temporal decision-making. Resource allocation depended both on the choice situation and on impulsivity. Furthermore, the time course of SCPs suggested that decision-related processes occurred both prior to and after the response.

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