Journal Article

Age Differences in the Neural Mechanisms of Intertemporal Choice Under Subjective Decision Conflict

Ben Eppinger, Hauke R Heekeren and Shu-Chen Li

in Cerebral Cortex

Volume 28, issue 11, pages 3764-3774
Published in print November 2018 | ISSN: 1047-3211
Published online September 2017 | e-ISSN: 1460-2199 | DOI:
Age Differences in the Neural Mechanisms of Intertemporal Choice Under Subjective Decision Conflict

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  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neuroscience
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Older decision-makers may capitalize on their greater experiences in financial decisions and by this offset decline in cognitive abilities. However, this pattern of results should reverse in situations that place high demands on cognitive control functions. In this study, we investigated how decision conflict affects the neural mechanisms of intertemporal decision-making in younger and older adults. To individually adjust the level of decision conflict we determined the indifference point (IDP) in intertemporal decision-making for each participant. During functional magnetic resonance imaging, participants performed choice options close to their IDP (high conflict) or far away from the IDP (low conflict). In younger adults, decision conflict leads to reduced delay discounting and lower discount rates are associated with higher working memory (WM) capacity. In older adults, high decision conflict is associated with enhanced discounting, hypoactivation in the ventral striatum as well diminished ventral striatal representations of differences in subjective values. Taken together, our results show that under enhanced decision conflict, younger adults engage in a more reflective decision mode that reflects individual differences in WM capacity. In contrast, older adults get more present-oriented under high demands on cognitive control and this decision bias is associated with changes in striatal value signaling.

Keywords: aging; decision conflict; delay discounting; prefrontal cortex; ventral striatum

Journal Article.  8945 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neurology ; Clinical Neuroscience ; Neuroscience

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