Individual Differences in the Neural Signature of Subjective Value Among Older Adults
ventromedial prefrontal cortex
Iowa Gambling Task
Some healthy older adults show departures from standard decision-making patterns exhibited by younger adults. We asked if such departures are uniform or if heterogeneous aging processes can designate which older adults show differing decision patterns. Thirty-three healthy older adults with varying decision-making patterns on a complex decision task (the Iowa Gambling Task) completed an intertemporal choice task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. We examined whether value representation in the canonical valuation network differed across older adults based on complex decision-making ability. Older adults with advantageous decision patterns showed increased activity in the valuation network, including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and striatum. In contrast, older adults with disadvantageous decision patterns showed reduced or absent activation in the VMPFC and striatum, and these older adults also showed greater blood oxygen level dependent signal temporal variability in the striatum. Our results suggest that a reduced representation of value in the brain, possibly driven by increased neural noise, relates to suboptimal decision-making in a subset of older adults, which could translate to poor decision-making in many aspects of life, including finance, health and long-term care. Understanding the connection between suboptimal decision-making and neural value signals is a step toward mitigating age-related decision-making impairments.