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Cereb Cortex. 2009 Apr;19(4):839-48. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn132. Epub 2008 Aug 4.

Neural correlates of speeded as compared with delayed responses in a stop signal task: an indirect analog of risk taking and association with an anxiety trait.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine and VA Connecticut Healthcare System, New Haven, 06519, USA.


The stop signal task (SST) is widely used to explore neural processes involved in cognitive control. By randomly intermixing stop and go trials and imposing on participants to respond quickly to the go but not the stop signal, the SST also introduces an indirect element of risk, which participants may avert by slowing down or ignore by responding "as usual," during go trials. This "risk-taking" component of the SST has to our knowledge never been investigated. The current study took advantage of variability of go trial reaction time (RT) and compared the post-go go trials that showed a decrease in RT (risk-taking decision) and those post-go go trials that showed an increase in RT ("risk-aversive" decision) in 33 healthy individuals who underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during the SST. This contrast revealed robust activation in bilateral visual cortices as well as left inferior parietal and posterior cingulate cortices, amygdala, and middle frontal gyrus (P < 0.05, family-wise error [FWE] corrected). Furthermore, we observed that the magnitude of amygdala activity is positively correlated with trait anxiety of the participants. These results thus delineated, for the first time, a neural analog of risk taking during stop signal performance, highlighting a novel aspect and broadening the utility of this behavioral paradigm.

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