Epidemiological data point strongly to the period of late adolescence and early adulthood as the critical age during which most individuals initiate engagement in risky behaviors. Two key factors in the initiation of these behaviors are: 1) the individual's propensity to take risks (i.e. how they respond to uncertainty);and 2) the effect of social norms on individual risky decision making. In the previous period of this grant, we focused on the neurobiological underpinnings associated with an individual's response to uncertainty and the neural correlates of risky decision making. In this renewal, we propose to build on these results and address the social dimension of decision making. Using fMRI, we will determine how social messages become intertwined with the elements of uncertainty and value in the brain. The approach is grounded in neuroeconomics, which utilizes neuroimaging to uncover the relationships of hidden variables in the brain that correspond to specific decisions that individuals make. Using paradigms widely studied in experimental economics, we will test competing hypotheses about the manner in which social messages influence these types of decisions by examining the specific neural circuits that mediate the effect of social messages on levels of individual risk taking and cooperation in group settings. The overarching hypothesis is that social messages distort the expected utility of outcomes, and this will be measurable as a shift in brain activity in orbitofrontal-striatal circuits. We hypothesize this effect will be relatively insensitive to the type of message and the type of decision. To test this hypothesis, we propose 4 aims: 1) Determine the neural circuits involved in processing socially salient messages during risky decision making. 2) Determine the extent to which the source of a social message affects the specific neural circuits used to process the message. We will compare the neurobiological effects of peer-to- peer messaging, messages from authority figures and experts, and collective messages. 3) For each of the different messaging sources, we will measure its effect on 3 types of decisions that range from individual, to 2-person, to individual with consequences for others. 4) Determine the developmental trajectory of both the behavioral and neurobiological effect of social messages on risky behavior from adolescence through adulthood.

Public Health Relevance

Very little is known about how peer pressure influences risky decision making. In this project, we will use modern brain imaging techniques to see how social messages from peers and authority figures change risky decisions and which parts of the brain are responsible.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognitive Neuroscience Study Section (COG)
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Bjork, James M
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Emory University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Berns, Gregory S; Bell, Emily (2012) Striatal topography of probability and magnitude information for decisions under uncertainty. Neuroimage 59:3166-72
Brooks, Andrew M; Pammi, V S Chandrasekhar; Noussair, Charles et al. (2010) From bad to worse: striatal coding of the relative value of painful decisions. Front Neurosci 4:176
Ariely, Dan; Berns, Gregory S (2010) Neuromarketing: the hope and hype of neuroimaging in business. Nat Rev Neurosci 11:284-92
Berns, Gregory S; Capra, C Monica; Moore, Sara et al. (2010) Neural mechanisms of the influence of popularity on adolescent ratings of music. Neuroimage 49:2687-96
Engelmann, Jan B; Capra, C Monica; Noussair, Charles et al. (2009) Expert financial advice neurobiologically "Offloads" financial decision-making under risk. PLoS One 4:e4957
Berns, Gregory S; Moore, Sara; Capra, C Monica (2009) Adolescent engagement in dangerous behaviors is associated with increased white matter maturity of frontal cortex. PLoS One 4:e6773
Chandrasekhar, Pammi V S; Capra, C Monica; Moore, Sara et al. (2008) Neurobiological regret and rejoice functions for aversive outcomes. Neuroimage 39:1472-84
Berns, Gregory S; Capra, C Monica; Chappelow, Jonathan et al. (2008) Nonlinear neurobiological probability weighting functions for aversive outcomes. Neuroimage 39:2047-57
Berns, Gregory S; Capra, C Monica; Moore, Sara et al. (2008) Three studies on the neuroeconomics of decision-making when payoffs are real and negative. Adv Health Econ Health Serv Res 20:1-29
Berns, Gregory S; Laibson, David; Loewenstein, George (2007) Intertemporal choice--toward an integrative framework. Trends Cogn Sci 11:482-8

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