Aging and risky decision-making: New ERP evidence from the Iowa Gambling Task

Abstract

Several pieces of evidence have highlighted the presence of an age-related decline in risky decision-making (DM), but the reason of this decline is still unclear. The aim of the present study was to investigate the neural correlates of feedback processing in risky DM. Twenty-one younger (age <50 years) and 15 older (age >50 years) adults were tested with the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) during Event Related Potentials (ERP) recording. The analysis was focused on the feedback-related negativity (FRN) and P3, two ERP components that represent different stages of feedback processing. Behavioral results revealed that older adults, despite showing a significant learning trend, completed the IGT with a gain of a smaller amount of money compared to the younger ones. ERP results revealed that while the FRN response was comparable in the two groups, the P3 amplitude was significantly reduced after negative feedback in older adults, compared with the younger ones. Furthermore, the difference in the P3 amplitude evoked by positive and negative feedback was significantly correlated with age. Hence, the present findings suggest that older adults seem to be less willing to shift attention from positive to negative information, and that this relevant change in the later stages of feedback processing could be the cause of a poor performance in risky DM contexts.

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