Transcranial direct current stimulation over prefrontal cortex diminishes degree of risk aversion

Hang Ye, Shu Chen, Daqiang Huang, Siqi Wang, Yongmin Jia, Jun Luo
Neuroscience Letters 2015 June 26, 598: 18-22
Previous studies have established that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a powerful technique for manipulating the activity of the human cerebral cortex. Many studies have found that weighing the risks and benefits in decision-making involves a complex neural network that includes the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). We studied whether participants change the balance of risky and safe responses after receiving tDCS applied over the right and left prefrontal cortex. A total of 60 healthy volunteers performed a risk task while they received either anodal tDCS over the right prefrontal cortex, with cathodal over the left; anodal tDCS over the left prefrontal cortex, with cathodal over the right; or sham stimulation. The participants tended to choose less risky options after receiving sham stimulation, demonstrating that the task might be highly influenced by the "wealth effect". There was no statistically significant change after either right anodal/left cathodal or left anodal/right cathodal tDCS, indicating that both types of tDCS impact the participants' degrees of risk aversion, and therefore, counteract the wealth effect. We also found gender differences in the participants' choices. These findings extend the notion that DLPFC activity is critical for risk decision-making. Application of tDCS to the right/left DLPFC may impact a person's attitude to taking risks.

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