Resting-State Theta Oscillations and Reward Sensitivity in Risk Taking

Azanova, Maria; Herrojo Ruiz, Maria; Belianin, Alexis V.; Klucharev, Vasily and Nikulin, Vadim V.. 2021. Resting-State Theta Oscillations and Reward Sensitivity in Risk Taking. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15, 608699. ISSN 1662-4548 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Females demonstrate greater risk aversion than males on a variety of tasks, but the underlying neurobiological basis is still unclear. We studied how theta (4–7 Hz) oscillations at rest related to three different measures of risk taking. Thirty-five participants (15 females) completed the Bomb Risk Elicitation Task (BRET), which allowed us to measure risk taking during an economic game. The Domain-Specific Risk-Taking Scale (DOSPERT) was used to measure self-assessed risk attitudes as well as reward and punishment sensitivities. In addition, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS11) was included to quantify impulsiveness. To obtain measures of frontal theta asymmetry and frontal theta power, we used magnetoencephalography (MEG) acquired prior to task completion, while participants were at rest. Frontal theta asymmetry correlated with average risk taking during the game but only in the female sample. By contrast, frontal theta power correlated with risk taking as well as with measures of reward and punishment sensitivity in the joint sample. Importantly, we showed that reward sensitivity mediated a correlation between risk taking and the power of theta oscillations localized to the anterior cingulate cortex. In addition, we observed significant sex differences in source- and sensor-space theta power, risk taking during the game, and reward sensitivity. Our findings suggest that sensitivity to rewards, associated with resting-state theta oscillations in the anterior cingulate cortex, is a trait that potentially contributes to sex differences in risk taking.

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This study was supported by the International Laboratory of Social Neurobiology ICN HSE RF Government Grant Ag. No. 075-15-2019-1930. MA was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Max Planck Society.


risk taking, theta oscillations, sex differences, reward sensitivity, frontal asymmetry, spontaneous neural activity, domain-specific risk-taking scale, magnetoencephalagraphy

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28 April 2021Published
17 March 2021Accepted

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04 Jun 2021 13:19

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03 Aug 2021 15:04

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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