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Metabolic State Alters Economic Decision Making under Risk in Humans

Symmonds, M; Emmanuel, JJ; Drew, ME; Batterham, RL; Dolan, RJ; (2010) Metabolic State Alters Economic Decision Making under Risk in Humans. PLOS ONE , 5 (6) , Article e11090. 10.1371/journal.pone.0011090. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Animals' attitudes to risk are profoundly influenced by metabolic state (hunger and baseline energy stores). Specifically, animals often express a preference for risky (more variable) food sources when below a metabolic reference point (hungry), and safe (less variable) food sources when sated. Circulating hormones report the status of energy reserves and acute nutrient intake to widespread targets in the central nervous system that regulate feeding behaviour, including brain regions strongly implicated in risk and reward based decision-making in humans. Despite this, physiological influences per se have not been considered previously to influence economic decisions in humans. We hypothesised that baseline metabolic reserves and alterations in metabolic state would systematically modulate decision-making and financial risk-taking in humans.Methodology/Principal Findings: We used a controlled feeding manipulation and assayed decision-making preferences across different metabolic states following a meal. To elicit risk-preference, we presented a sequence of 200 paired lotteries, subjects' task being to select their preferred option from each pair. We also measured prandial suppression of circulating acyl-ghrelin (a centrally-acting orexigenic hormone signalling acute nutrient intake), and circulating leptin levels (providing an assay of energy reserves). We show both immediate and delayed effects on risky decision-making following a meal, and that these changes correlate with an individual's baseline leptin and changes in acyl-ghrelin levels respectively.Conclusions/Significance: We show that human risk preferences are exquisitely sensitive to current metabolic state, in a direction consistent with ecological models of feeding behaviour but not predicted by normative economic theory. These substantive effects of state changes on economic decisions perhaps reflect shared evolutionarily conserved neurobiological mechanisms. We suggest that this sensitivity in human risk-preference to current metabolic state has significant implications for both real-world economic transactions and for aberrant decision-making in eating disorders and obesity.

Type: Article
Title: Metabolic State Alters Economic Decision Making under Risk in Humans
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011090
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0011090
Language: English
Additional information: © 2010 Symmonds et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. This work was supported by a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant to RJD. JE is in receipt of a Medical Research Council Training Fellowship. RLB receives funding from the UCL/UCLH Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Keywords: FORAGING PREFERENCES, ENERGY BUDGETS, GHRELIN LEVELS, TEST MEAL, CHOICE, APPETITE, BRAIN, IMPULSIVITY, MODULATION, VARIANCE
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine > Metabolism and Experi Therapeutics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/116577
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