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Nucleus accumbens activation mediates the influence of reward cues on financial risk taking

Knutson, Briana; Wimmer, G. Elliotta; Kuhnen, Camelia M.c; Winkielman, Piotrb

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3282f85c01

In functional magnetic resonance imaging research, nucleus accumbens (NAcc) activation spontaneously increases before financial risk taking. As anticipation of diverse rewards can increase NAcc activation, even incidental reward cues may influence financial risk taking. Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we predicted and found that anticipation of viewing rewarding stimuli (erotic pictures for 15 heterosexual men) increased financial risk taking, and that this effect was partially mediated by increases in NAcc activation. These results are consistent with the notion that incidental reward cues influence financial risk taking by altering anticipatory affect, and so identify a neuropsychological mechanism that may underlie effective emotional appeals in financial, marketing, and political domains.

aDepartment of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford

bDepartment of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, California

cKellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA

Correspondence to Dr Brian Knutson, PhD, Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Building 420, Jordan Hall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

Tel: +1 650 724 2965; fax: +1 650 725 5699; e-mail:

Received 9 January 2008; accepted 15 January 2008

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.