Reward Processing and Risky Decision Making in the Aging Brain

V. Reyna & V. Zayas, eds., The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making, American Psychological Association, 2014

37 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2013 Last revised: 28 Oct 2015

See all articles by Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin

Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin

Yale University - Department of Psychology

Brian Knutson

Stanford University - Psychology

Date Written: December 14, 2012

Abstract

Despite the graying of the world population and increasing relevance of decision competence across the life span, scant research has focused on whether or how reward processing and risky decision making may change across adulthood. Here, we review studies that have examined how age influences psychological and neural responses to financial incentives and risk. The findings suggest that while processing of basic rewards may be maintained across the adult life span, learning about new rewards may decline as a function of age. Further, these behavioral changes can be linked to relative preservation of striatal function in the face of age-related declines in the connectivity of the prefrontal cortex to the striatum. This frontostriatal disconnection may impair risky decision making, both in the laboratory and the real world. In addition to informing theory about how affect and cognition combine to guide choice, these novel findings imply that a deeper understanding of how the aging brain processes incentives may eventually inform the design of more targeted and effective decision aids for individuals of all ages.

Keywords: aging, reward, risk, affect, cognition, decision making, striatum, insula, prefrontal cortex

JEL Classification: C91, D14, D81, D83, D87, D91, G02, G11, J14, J26

Suggested Citation

Samanez-Larkin, Gregory R. and Knutson, Brian, Reward Processing and Risky Decision Making in the Aging Brain (December 14, 2012). V. Reyna & V. Zayas, eds., The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making, American Psychological Association, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2222681

Gregory R. Samanez-Larkin (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

Brian Knutson

Stanford University - Psychology ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650 723 7431 (Phone)
650 725 5699 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://psychology.stanford.edu/~knutson

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