Lucky rhythms in orbitofrontal cortex bias gambling decisions in humans


It is well established that emotions influence our decisions, yet the neural basis of this biasing effect is not well understood. Here we directly recorded local field potentials from the OrbitoFrontal Cortex (OFC) in five human subjects performing a financial decision-making task. We observed a striking increase in gamma-band (36–50 Hz) oscillatory activity that reflected subjects’ decisions to make riskier choices. Additionally, these gamma rhythms were linked back to mismatched expectations or “luck” occurring in past trials. Specifically, when a subject expected to win but lost, the trial was defined as “unlucky” and when the subject expected to lose but won, the trial was defined as “lucky”. Finally, a fading memory model of luck correlated to an objective measure of emotion, heart rate variability. Our findings suggest OFC may play a pivotal role in processing a subject’s internal (emotional) state during financial decision-making, a particularly interesting result in light of the more recent “cognitive map” theory of OFC function.

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