Activation of the prefrontal cortex by unilateral transcranial direct current stimulation leads to an asymmetrical effect on risk preference in frames of gain and loss

Hang Ye, Daqiang Huang, Siqi Wang, Haoli Zheng, Jun Luo, Shu Chen
Brain Research 2016 October 1, 1648 (Pt A): 325-332
Previous brain imaging and brain stimulation studies have suggested that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may be critical in regulating risk-taking behavior, although its specific causal effect on people's risk preference remains controversial. This paper studied the independent modulation of the activity of the right and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex using various configurations of transcranial direct current stimulation. We designed a risk-measurement table and adopted a within-subject design to compare the same participant's risk preference before and after unilateral stimulation when presented with different frames of gain and loss. The results confirmed a hemispheric asymmetry and indicated that the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex has an asymmetric effect on risk preference regarding frames of gain and loss. Enhancing the activity of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex significantly decreased the participants' degree of risk aversion in the gain frame, whereas it increased the participants' degree of risk aversion in the loss frame. Our findings provide important information regarding the impact of transcranial direct current stimulation on the risk preference of healthy participants. The effects observed in our experiment compared with those of previous studies provide further evidence of the effects of hemispheric and frame-dependent asymmetry. These findings may be helpful in understanding the neural basis of risk preference in humans, especially when faced with decisions involving possible gain or loss relative to the status quo.

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