Brain structure potentially lined with person's risk-taking tendency



In the future, your eligibility for a specific investment portfolio might be decided by a brain scan test.

A study published Thursday in the journal Neuron has suggested that a person's ability to tolerate economic risk is potentially correlated with connections between two areas of the brain.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have found that structural and functional connections between the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are associated with individual differences in the degree to which a person accepts risk in order to achieve a greater financial return.

Previously, those connections were known to be implicated in the development of affective disorders like depression and anxiety, according to researchers.

The researchers studied 108 healthy young adults who were asked to answer several questions involving their comfort with financial choices, facing over 120 different scenarios involving the risk of making more or less money.

"We assessed how willing individuals were of accepting the risk of getting nothing for the chance of getting a higher amount of money," said the paper's author Joseph W. Kable an associate professor of psychology.

Using MRI imaging and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), the researchers measured the structural and functional connections between the amygdala and mPFC system, and they also measured the size of the amygdala, including the volume of gray matter and white matter.

It has shown that individuals with a higher tolerance for risk in the study possessed a larger amygdala (more gray matter) and more functional connections between the amygdala and mPFC as measured by MRI.

But higher risk tolerance was identified in individuals with fewer structural connections or pathways between these areas, as measured by DTI.

Going forward, the researchers plan on collaborating with financial planning organizations to see how these brain-system findings can be used as a marker for risk tolerance involving larger economic-based decisions.

"The idea of using these brain markers and pairing them with some questionnaire or other assessments may help determine a better, more well-rounded sense of your tolerance for risk," said Kable.