Neural substrates of reward magnitude, probability, and risk during a wheel of fortune decision-making task

Bruce W. Smith, Derek G.V. Mitchell, Michael G. Hardin, Sandra Jazbec, Daniel Fridberg, R. James R. Blair, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Economic decision-making involves the weighting of magnitude and probability of potential gains/losses. While previous work has examined the neural systems involved in decision-making, there is a need to understand how the parameters associated with decision-making (e.g., magnitude of expected reward, probability of expected reward and risk) modulate activation within these neural systems. In the current fMRI study, we modified the monetary wheel of fortune (WOF) task [Ernst, M., Nelson, E.E., McClure, E.B., Monk, C.S., Munson, S., Eshel, N., et al. (2004). Choice selection and reward anticipation: an fMRI study. Neuropsychologia 42(12), 1585-1597.] to examine in 25 healthy young adults the neural responses to selections of different reward magnitudes, probabilities, or risks. Selection of high, relative to low, reward magnitude increased activity in insula, amygdala, middle and posterior cingulate cortex, and basal ganglia. Selection of low-probability, as opposed to high-probability reward, increased activity in anterior cingulate cortex, as did selection of risky, relative to safe reward. In summary, decision-making that did not involve conflict, as in the magnitude contrast, recruited structures known to support the coding of reward values, and those that integrate motivational and perceptual information for behavioral responses. In contrast, decision-making under conflict, as in the probability and risk contrasts, engaged the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex whose role in conflict monitoring is well established. However, decision-making under conflict failed to activate the structures that track reward values per se. Thus, the presence of conflict in decision-making seemed to significantly alter the pattern of neural responses to simple rewards. In addition, this paradigm further clarifies the functional specialization of the cingulate cortex in processes of decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-609
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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