Risk prediction and aversion by anterior cingulate cortex

  • Brown J
  • Braver T
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Abstract

The recently proposed error-likelihood hypothesis suggests that anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and surrounding areas will become active in proportion to the perceived likelihood of an error. The hypothesis was originally derived from a computational model prediction. The same computational model now makes a further prediction that ACC will be sensitive not only to predicted error likelihood, but also to the predicted magnitude of the consequences, should an error occur. The product of error likelihood and predicted error consequence magnitude collectively defines the general "expected risk" of a given behavior in a manner analogous but orthogonal to subjective expected utility theory. New fMRI results from an incentive change signal task now replicate the error-likelihood effect, validate the further predictions of the computational model, and suggest why some segments of the population may fail to show an error-likelihood effect. In particular, error-likelihood effects and expected risk effects in general indicate greater sensitivity to earlier predictors of errors and are seen in risk-averse but not risk-tolerant individuals. Taken together, the results are consistent with an expected risk model of ACC and suggest that ACC may generally contribute to cognitive control by recruiting brain activity to avoid risk. Copyright 2007 Psychonomic Society, Inc.

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