Differences in neural activation as a function of risk-taking task parameters

Eliza Congdon, Angelica A. Bato, Tom Schonberg, Jeanette A. Mumford, Katherine H. Karlsgodt, Fred W. Sabb, Edythe D. London, Tyrone D. Cannon, Robert M. Bilder, Russell A. Poldrack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite evidence supporting a relationship between impulsivity and naturalistic risk-taking, the relationship of impulsivity with laboratory-based measures of risky decision-making remains unclear. One factor contributing to this gap in our understanding is the degree to which different risky decision-making tasks vary in their details. We conducted an fMRI investigation of the Angling Risk Task (ART), which is an improved behavioral measure of risky decision-making. In order to examine whether the observed pattern of neural activation was specific to the ART or generalizable, we also examined correlates of the Balloon Analog Risk Taking (BART) task in the same sample of 23 healthy adults. Exploratory analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between neural activation, performance, impulsivity and self-reported risk-taking. While activation in a valuation network was associated with reward tracking during the ART but not the BART, increased fronto-cingulate activation was seen during risky choice trials in the BART as compared to the ART. Thus, neural activation during risky decision-making trials differed between the two tasks, and this observation was likely driven by differences in task parameters, namely the absence vs. presence of ambiguity and/or stationary vs. increasing probability of loss on the ART and BART, respectively. Exploratory association analyses suggest that sensitivity of neural response to the magnitude of potential reward during the ART was associated with a suboptimal performance strategy, higher scores on a scale of dysfunctional impulsivity (DI) and a greater likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, while this pattern was not seen for the BART. Our results suggest that the ART is decomposable and associated with distinct patterns of neural activation; this represents a preliminary step toward characterizing a behavioral measure of risky decision-making that may support a better understanding of naturalistic risk-taking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue number7 SEP
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • ART
  • BART
  • Dysfunctional impulsivity
  • Functional impulsivity
  • Naturalistic risk-taking
  • Risky decision-making


Dive into the research topics of 'Differences in neural activation as a function of risk-taking task parameters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this