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Disentangling the Effects of Serotonin on Risk Perception: S-Carriers of 5-HTTLPR Are Primarily Concerned With the Magnitude of the Outcomes, Not the Uncertainty

Journal article
Authors P. Millroth
P. Juslin
Elias Eriksson
T. Agren
Published in Behavioral Neuroscience
Volume 131
Issue 5
Pages 421-427
ISSN 0735-7044
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology
Pages 421-427
Language en
Keywords judgment and decision making, risk, 5-HTTLPR, serotonin, reward processing, acute tryptophan depletion, dorsal raphe nucleus, transporter gene, decision-making, reward, polymorphism, ambiguity, amygdala, region, determinants, Behavioral Sciences, Neurosciences & Neurology, x cr, 1995, quarterly journal of economics, v110, p585
Subject categories Neurology


Serotonin signaling is vital for reward processing, and hence, also for decision-making. The serotonin transporter gene linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) has been connected to decision making, suggesting that short-allele carriers (s) are more risk averse than long-allele homozygotes (ll). However, previous research has not identified if this occurs because s-carriers (i) are more sensitive to the uncertainty of the outcomes or (ii) are more sensitive to the magnitude of the outcomes. This issue was disentangled using a willingness-to-pay task, where the participants evaluated prospects involving certain gains, uncertain gains, and ambiguous gains. The results clearly favored the hypothesis that s-carriers react more to the magnitude of the outcomes. Self-reported measures of everyday risk-taking behavior also favored this hypothesis. We discuss how these results are in line with recent research on the serotonergic impact on reward processing.

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