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Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Jan 22;7:927. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00927. eCollection 2013.

Frontopolar cortex and decision-making efficiency: comparing brain activity of experts with different professional background during an exploration-exploitation task.

Author information

1
Department of Management, Technology, and Economics ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland ; Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University Milan, Italy.
2
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience & CERMAC, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University Milan, Italy ; Division of Neuroscience, San Raffaele Scientific Institute Milan, Italy.
3
Department of Management, Technology, and Economics ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland ; KITeS, Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University Milan, Italy.
4
Center for Research in Innovation, Organization and Strategy (CRIOS), Department of Management and Technology, Bocconi University Milan, Italy.
5
Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, Department of Economics, University of Zurich Zurich, Switzerland.

Abstract

An optimal balance between efficient exploitation of available resources and creative exploration of alternatives is critical for adaptation and survival. Previous studies associated these behavioral drives with, respectively, the dopaminergic mesocorticolimbic system and frontopolar-intraparietal networks. We study the activation of these systems in two age and gender-matched groups of experienced decision-makers differing in prior professional background, with the aim to understand the neural bases of individual differences in decision-making efficiency (performance divided by response time). We compare brain activity of entrepreneurs (who currently manage the organization they founded based on their venture idea) and managers (who are constantly involved in making strategic decisions but have no venture experience) engaged in a gambling-task assessing exploitative vs. explorative decision-making. Compared with managers, entrepreneurs showed higher decision-making efficiency, and a stronger activation in regions of frontopolar cortex (FPC) previously associated with explorative choice. Moreover, activity across a network of regions previously linked to explore/exploit tradeoffs explained individual differences in choice efficiency. These results suggest new avenues for the study of individual differences in the neural antecedents of efficient decision-making.

KEYWORDS:

decision-making; efficiency; exploration-exploitation; fMRI; frontopolar cortex

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