Social risky decision-making reveals gender differences in the TPJ: A hyperscanning study using functional near-infrared spectroscopy

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HighlightsWe study inter-brain processes of risky behavior in face-to-face interactions.NIRS data reveal higher activations in risky decisions in the OFC, mPFC, and TPJ.Males and females show different inter-brain synchronizations in risky decisions.Previous neuroscience studies have investigated neural correlates of risky decision-making in a single-brain frame during pseudo social (predominantly non face-to-face) contexts. To fully understand the risky decision-making behavior in more natural social interactions, the present study employed a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyperscanning technique to simultaneously measure pairs of participants’ fronto-temporal activations in a face-to-face gambling card-game. The intra-brain results revealed that both those who identified as males and as females showed higher activations in their mPFC and in the inferior parts of the frontopolar area, as well as in the tempo-parietal junction (TPJ) in cases involving higher versus lower risk. This is consistent with previous findings suggesting importance of the mentalizing network in decision tasks. The fNIRS results of inter-brain neural synchronization (INS) also revealed that males and females showed increased inter-brain coherence in the mPFC and dlPFC. Females, however, uniquely showed increased inter-brain coherence in the left TPJ. This INS result suggests that males may primarily depend on non-social cognitive ability to make a risky decision in a social interaction, while females may use both social and non-social cognitive abilities. The implications are also discussed for general topics of human interaction and two-person neuroscience.

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