An electrophysiological index of changes in risk decision-making strategies

Dandan Zhang, Ruolei Gu, Tingting Wu, Lucas S. Broster, Yi Luo, Yang Jiang, Yue jia Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Human decision-making is significantly modulated by previously experienced outcomes. Using event-related potentials (ERPs), we examined whether ERP components evoked by outcome feedbacks could serve as biomarkers to signal the influence of current outcome evaluation on subsequent decision-making. In this study, 18 adult volunteers participated in a simple monetary gambling task, in which they were asked to choose between two options that differed in risk. Their decisions were immediately followed by outcome presentation. Temporospatial principle component analysis (PCA) was applied to the outcome-onset locked ERPs in the 200-1000. ms time window. The PCA factors that approximated classical ERP components (P2, feedback-related negativity, P3a, and P3b) in terms of time course and scalp distribution were tested for their association with subsequent decision-making strategies. Our results revealed that a fronto-central PCA factor approximating the classical P3a was related to changes of decision-making strategies on subsequent trials. The decision to switch between high- and low-risk options resulted in a larger P3a relative to the decision to retain the same choice. According to the results, we suggest that the amplitude of the fronto-central P3a is an electrophysiological index of the influence of current outcome on subsequent risk decision-making. Furthermore, the ERP source analysis indicated that the activations of the frontopolar cortex and sensorimotor cortex were involved in subsequent changes of strategies, which enriches our understanding of the neural mechanisms of adjusting decision-making strategies based on previous experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1397-1407
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 30930031 and 91132704 ), the National Key Technologies R&D Program (Grant no. 2009BAI77B01 ), the Ministry of Science and Technology (973 Program, 2011CB711000 ), the Global Research Initiative Program, United States National Institute of Health (Grant nos. 1R01TW007897 , P50DA05312 , and 5 T32 AG 242-18 ), the National Center for Research Resources (Grant no. UL1RR033173 ), the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (Grant no. UL1TR000117 ), and the Scientific Foundation of Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant no. Y2CQ013005 ). The authors thank Blake LeMaster for help with grammar editing on the earlier version of this manuscript.


  • Decision-making
  • Event-related potential (ERP)
  • Outcome evaluation
  • P3 component
  • Principal components analysis (PCA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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