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Are There Sex-Related Neural Differences In Risk Taking?

Posted Jan 07 2009 4:38pm

A study published in the October 2008 issue of Cerebral Cortex explores gender differences in the process of risk-taking. Using functional MRI (fMRI), the researchers observed that the female participants (n = 10) showed stronger activation in the right insula and bilateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) than did the male participants (n = 12) while they were performing in the Risky-Gains task. The female participants also showed stronger activations in the precentral, postcentral, and paracentral regions after receiving punishment feedback. In addition, the strength of neural activity in the insula correlated with the rate of risky behaviors for the female participants but not for the male participants. Similarly, the percent signal changes in the right OFC correlated negatively with the rate of selecting risky choices for the female group. These findings strongly suggest a sex-related influence modulating brain activity during risk-taking tasks. When taking the same level of risk, relative to men, women tend to engage in more neural processing involving the insula and the OFC to update and valuate possible uncertainty associated with risk-taking decision making. These results are consistent with the value-based decision-making model and offer insights into the possible neural mechanisms underlying the different risk-taking attitudes of men and women.

Click here for the abstract.

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