Reward processing and intertemporal decision making in adults and adolescents: The role of impulsivity and decision consistency

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



Several studies report differences between adults and adolescents in reward processing and impulsivity. Consistently, adolescents are more impulsive in their decision making, as measured by intertemporal choice tasks. Since impulsivity affects an individual's perception and neural processing of rewards, it is unclear whether previously reported differences in brain activation between adults and adolescents are primarily due to maturation of the brain reward system or differences in impulsivity (i.e. discounting behaviour). To disentangle this, we analysed data from 235 adolescents and 29 adults who performed an intertemporal choice task in which monetary rewards were adapted to individual impulsivity. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we measured brain activity and assessed impulsivity and consistency of choices at the behavioural level. Although adolescents discounted delayed rewards more steeply than adults, when controlling for impulsivity, neural processing of reward value did not differ between groups. However, more impulsive subjects showed a lower brain response to delayed rewards, independent of age. Concerning decision making, adolescents exhibited a lower consistency of choices and less brain activity in the parietal network than adults.We conclude that processing of the value of prospective delayed rewards is more sensitive to discounting behaviour than to chronological age. Lower consistency of intertemporal choices might indicate ongoing maturation of parietal brain areas in adolescents. (c) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Seiten (von - bis)36-47
FachzeitschriftBrain research : an international multidisciplinary journal devoted to fundamental research in the brain sciences
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 10 Okt. 2012

Externe IDs

Scopus 84866521835
WOS 000310414200004
PubMed 22940231
ORCID /0000-0001-5099-0274/work/142249088
ORCID /0000-0001-5398-5569/work/150329429



  • Brain development, Discounting behaviour, Functional MRI, Impulsivity, Intertemporal choice, Reward processing