Modulating activity in the prefrontal cortex changes decision-making for risky gains and losses: a transcranial direct current stimulation study

Hang Ye, Shu Chen, Daqiang Huang, Siqi Wang, Jun Luo
Behavioural Brain Research 2015 June 1, 286: 17-21
When making choices under uncertainty, people usually consider both the risks and benefits of each option. Previous studies have found that weighing of risks and benefits during decision-making involves a complex neural network that includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), but the causal effect of this network on risk decision-making has remained unclear. This experiment was based on a risk-measurement table designed to provide a direct measure of risk preference, with a weighted value of the choices (denoted as weighted risk aversion, WRA) as an index of the participant's degree of risk aversion. We studied whether bifrontal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied over the right and left prefrontal cortex can change the balance of risky vs. safe responses under both gain frame and loss frame. A total of 60 volunteers performed risk tasks while receiving either anodal over the right with cathodal over the left DLPFC, anodal over the left with cathodal over the right DLPFC, or sham stimulation. The participants tended to choose more risky options in the gain frame and more safe options in the loss frame after the right anodal/left cathodal tDCS. We also found that right anodal/left cathodal tDCS significantly decreased the WRA values compared with those associated with sham stimulation. These findings extend the notion that DLPFC activity is critical for risk decision-making, indicating an asymmetric role of the right DLPFC in the gain frame vs. the loss frame of risk decision-making.

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