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
Date Written: December 14, 2012
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: Suggested Citation