Risk-Takers Smarter, New Study Suggests; Results Are Counter to Those of Previous Studies

Do you often take chances and yet still land on your feet? Then you probably have a well-developed brain. This surprising conclusion made as part of a project studying the brains of young male high and low risk-takers. The tests were carried out at the University of Turku in Finland under the direction of SINTEF (http://www.sintef.no/en/), using both the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques to measure activation-related and structural correlates of risky behavior, respectively. The aim of the project was to investigate the decision-making processes within the brains of 34 young men aged 18 or 19. Based on psychological tests, they were divided into two groups of low and high risk-takers, respectively. "We expected to find that young men who spend time considering what they are going to do in a given risk situation would have more highly developed neural networks in their brains than those who make quick decisions and take chances," says SINTEF researcher and behavioral analyst Dagfinn Moe, Ph.D. "This has been well documented in a series of studies, but our project revealed the complete opposite," he says. The surprising results have now been published in two articles, both published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. One article is titled “Risk-Taking Behavior in a Computerized Driving Task: Brain Activation Correlates of Decision-Making, Outcome, and Peer Influence in Male Adolescents,” and was published online on June 8, 2015. The other article is titled “Brain Structural Correlates of Risk-Taking Behavior and Effects of Peer Influence in Adolescents,” and was published online on November 12, 2014.
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