Your resting brain CAREs about your risky behavior

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Background: Research on the neural correlates of risk-related behaviors and personality traits has provided insight into mechanisms underlying both normal and pathological decision-making. Task-based neuroimaging studies implicate a distributed network of brain regions in risky decision-making. What remains to be understood are the interactions between these regions and their relation to individual differences in personality variables associated with real-world risk-taking. Methodology/Principal Findings: We employed resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (R-fMRI) and resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) methods to investigate differences in the brain’s intrinsic functional architecture associated with beliefs about the consequences of risky behavior. We obtained an individual measure of expected benefit from engaging in risky behavior, indicating a risk seeking or risk-averse personality, for each of 21 participants from whom we also collected a series of R-fMRI scans. The expected benefit scores were entered in statistical models assessing the RSFC of brain regions consistently implicated in both the evaluation of risk and reward, and cognitive control (i.e., orbitofrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, lateral prefrontal cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate). We specifically focused on significant brainbehavior relationships that were stable across R-fMRI scans collected one year apart. Two stable expected benefit-RSFC relationships were observed: decreased expected benefit (increased risk-aversion) was associated with 1) stronger positive functional connectivity between right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and right insula, and 2) weaker negative functional connectivity between left nucleus accumbens and right parieto-occipital cortex. Conclusions/Significance: Task-based activation in the IFG and insula has been associated with risk-aversion, while activation in the nucleus accumbens and parietal cortex has been associated with both risk seeking and risk-averse tendencies. Our results suggest that individual differences in attitudes toward risk-taking are reflected in the brain’s functional architecture and may have implications for engaging in real-world risky behaviors.

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