The effect of future time perspective on delay discounting is mediated by the gray matter volume of vmPFC

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Abstract

Although several previous studies have shown that individuals' attitude towards time could affect their intertemporal preference, little is known about the neural basis of the relation between time perspective (TP) and delay discounting. In the present study, we quantified the gray matter (GM) cortical volume using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) methods to investigate the effect of TP on delay discounting (DD) across two independent samples. For group 1 (102 healthy college students; 46 male; 20.40 ± 1.87 years), behavioral results showed that only Future TP was a significant predictor of DD, and higher scores on Future TP were related to lower discounting rates. Whole-brain analysis revealed that steeper discounting correlated with greater GM volume in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and ventral part of posterior cingulate cortex (vPCC). Also, GM volume of a cluster in the vmPFC was correlated with Future TP. Interestingly, there was an overlapping region in vmPFC that was correlated with both DD and Future TP. Region-of-interest analysis further indicated that the overlapping region of vmPFC played a partially mediating role in the relation between Future TP and DD in the other independent dataset (Group 2, 36 healthy college students; 14 male; 20.18±1.80 years). Taken together, our results provide a new perspective from neural basis for explaining the relation between DD and future TP.

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