Emotion-induced loss aversion and striatal-amygdala coupling in low-anxious individuals


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Abstract

Adapting behavior to changes in the environment is a crucial ability for survival but such adaptation varies widely across individuals. Here, we asked how humans alter their economic decision-making in response to emotional cues, and whether this is related to trait anxiety. Developing an emotional decision-making task for functional magnetic resonance imaging, in which gambling decisions were preceded by emotional and non-emotional primes, we assessed emotional influences on loss aversion, the tendency to overweigh potential monetary losses relative to gains. Our behavioral results revealed that only low-anxious individuals exhibited increased loss aversion under emotional conditions. This emotional modulation of decision-making was accompanied by a corresponding emotion-elicited increase in amygdala-striatal functional connectivity, which correlated with the behavioral effect across participants. Consistent with prior reports of ‘neural loss aversion’, both amygdala and ventral striatum tracked losses more strongly than gains, and amygdala loss aversion signals were exaggerated by emotion, suggesting a potential role for this structure in integrating value and emotion cues. Increased loss aversion and striatal-amygdala coupling induced by emotional cues may reflect the engagement of adaptive harm-avoidance mechanisms in low-anxious individuals, possibly promoting resilience to psychopathology.

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