Age-related differences in neural activities during risk taking as revealed by functional MRI

Tatia M.C. Lee, Ada W.S. Leung, Peter T. Fox, Jia Hong Gao, Chetwyn C.H. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Previous research has clearly documented that risky decision making is different in young and older adults. Yet, there has been a relative dearth of research that seeks to understand such age-related changes in the neural activities associated with risk taking. To address this research issue, 21 men (12 young men, mean age 29.9±6.2 years and 9 older men, mean age 65.2±4.2 years) performed a risky-gains task while their brain activities were monitored by an fMRI scanner. The older adults, relative to their younger peers, presented with contralateral prefrontal activity, particularly at the orbitofrontal cortex. Furthermore, stronger activation of the right insula was observed for the older-aged participants compared to the younger-aged adults. The findings of this study are consistent with the a priori speculations established in accordance with the HAROLD model as well as previous findings. Findings of this study suggest that when making risky decisions, there may be possible neuropsychological mechanisms underlying the change in impulsive and risk-taking behaviors during the course of natural ageing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Ageing
  • Insula
  • Neuroimaging
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Risk taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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