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Hedonic context modulates risky choices and reward responses in amygdala and dorsal striatum


Marja-Liisa Halko


Lauri Nummenmaa

Yevhen Hlushchuk

Associate Professor & Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience


The hedonic context of the environment can alter an individual’s emotional states and consequently their risk taking. Here we reveal the brain mechanisms underlying music-induced unstable risk preferences using functional MRI (fMRI). Subjects listened to self-selected liked or disliked music while they decided to accept or reject risky gambles. Behaviorally loss aversion was lower during liked music than during disliked or no music. At the neural level, reduced loss aversion was associated with a specific pattern of value coding in amygdala and dorsal striatum: during disliked music gambles with high expected reward induced higher activation than gambles with low expected reward, whereas during liked music this activation pattern was reversed. Furthermore, individual differences in loss aversion influenced value coding in such a way that for the most loss-averse subjects, bilateral activation of anterior insula, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and posterior parietal cortex increased as the expected value of the gamble increased, whereas for the least loss-averse subjects increase in potential reward was associated with decreasing activation in those areas. We propose music-modulated value coding in amygdala and striatum as a neural mechanism supporting emotion-dependent adjustments to risk-taking which in turn facilitate behavior depending on how dangerous versus safe the environment is experienced to be.


Halko, M., Mäkelä, T., Nummenmaa, L., Hlushchuk, Y., & Schuermann, M. (2015). Hedonic context modulates risky choices and reward responses in amygdala and dorsal striatum. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, 8(2), 100-115.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 8, 2015
Online Publication Date Apr 30, 2015
Publication Date Jun 1, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2018
Print ISSN 1937-321X
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 2
Pages 100-115
Public URL
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