Neural substrates of choice selection in adults and adolescents: Development of the ventrolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices

Neir Eshel, Eric E. Nelson, R. James Blair, Daniel S. Pine, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

263 Scopus citations


A heightened propensity for risk-taking and poor decision-making underlies the peak morbidity and mortality rates reported during adolescence. Delayed maturation of cortical structures during the adolescent years has been proposed as a possible explanation for this observation. Here, we test the hypothesis of adolescent delayed maturation by using fMRI during a monetary decision-making task that directly examines risk-taking behavior during choice selection. Orbitofrontal/ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (OFC/VLPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) were examined selectively since both have been implicated in reward-related processes, cognitive control, and resolution of conflicting decisions. Group comparisons revealed greater activation in the OFC/VLPFC (BA 47) and dorsal ACC (BA 32) in adults than adolescents when making risky selections. Furthermore, reduced activity in these areas correlated with greater risk-taking performance in adolescents and in the combined group. Consistent with predictions, these results suggest that adolescents engage prefrontal regulatory structures to a lesser extent than adults when making risky economic choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1270-1279
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 16 2007



  • Affective regulation
  • Cognitive control
  • Conflict monitoring
  • Decision-making
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this