Social and Non-social Brain Areas in Risk Behaviour: The Role of Social Context
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AuthorBaltruschat, Sabina Anna; Megías Robles, Alberto; Cándido Ortiz, Antonio; Maldonado López, Antonio; Catena Martínez, Andrés
Driving simulationEmerging adultsFunctional connectivityPeer-effectRisk perception
Sabina Baltruschat... [et al.]. Social and Non-social Brain Areas in Risk Behaviour: The Role of Social Context, Neuroscience, Volume 465, 2021, Pages 177-186, ISSN 0306-4522, [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2021.04.029]
SponsorshipSpanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness PSI2016-80558-R; University of Granada
The human brain contains social areas that become active when interacting with another human. These are located in the ventral prefrontal and mediodorsal cortices, adjacent to areas involved in reward processing and cognitive control. Human behaviour is strongly influenced by the social context. This is particularly evident when observing greater risk propensity in the presence of a peer, particularly during adolescence and emerging adulthood. We explored the widely held view that enhanced risk propensity is the consequence of weak cognitive control. We used brain activity, estimated from EEG recordings in a sample of 114 emerging adult dyads whilst performing a risk perception task, to predict risk behaviour in a subsequent driving simulation task. Being with a peer reduced the ability to discriminate riskiness in images of traffic scenes, biased responses towards the perception of no-risk, and increased the rate of accidents in the driving simulation. Risk perception involved three sets of clusters showing activity only when being with a peer, only when being alone, and in both social contexts. Functional connectivity between the clusters accounted for the later driving simulation performance depending on the peer’s presence. In the light of our findings, greater risk-taking, when a peer is present, seems to be triggered by the activation of a different, less efficient brain network for risk-processing.