Neuroanatomical Substrates for Risk Behavior

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Abstract

Individuals vary substantially in their tendency to take risks. In the past two decades, a large number of neuroimaging studies in humans have explored the neural mechanisms of several cognitive processes that contribute to risk taking. In this article, I focus on functional and structural MRI studies that investigated uncertainty processing, one of the main features of risk behavior. Using decision-making and learning paradigms, these studies implicated a network of brain areas, including posterior parietal cortex, anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, in various aspects of uncertainty processing. Individual differences in behavior under uncertainty are reflected in the function and structure of some of these areas and are integrated into value representations in ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum, reinforcing the potential contribution of all of these brain structures to individual tendencies to take risks.

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