Risk-taking bias in human decision-making is encoded via a right–left brain push–pull system

Pierre Sacré, Matthew S.D. Kerr, Sandya Subramanian, Zachary Fitzgerald, Kevin Kahn, Matthew A. Johnson, Ernst Niebur, Uri T. Eden, Jorge A. González-Martínez, John T. Gale, Sridevi V. Sarma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A person’s decisions vary even when options stay the same, like when a gambler changes bets despite constant odds of winning. Internal bias (e.g., emotion) contributes to this variability and is shaped by past outcomes, yet its neurobiology during decision-making is not well understood. To map neural circuits encoding bias, we administered a gambling task to 10 participants implanted with intracerebral depth electrodes in cortical and subcortical structures. We predicted the variability in betting behavior within and across patients by individual bias, which is estimated through a dynamical model of choice. Our analysis further revealed that high-frequency activity increased in the right hemisphere when participants were biased toward risky bets, while it increased in the left hemisphere when participants were biased away from risky bets. Our findings provide electrophysiological evidence that risk-taking bias is a lateralized push–pull neural system governing counterintuitive and highly variable decision-making in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1404-1413
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 22 2019


  • Human decision-making
  • Neural encoding
  • Risk-taking dynamic bias
  • Stereoelectroencephalography
  • Stochastic dynamic model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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