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Permanent URL to this publication: http://dx.doi.org/10.5167/uzh-58356

Herwig, U; Brühl, A B; Viebke, M C; Scholz, R W; Knoch, D; Siegrist, M (2011). Neural correlates of evaluating hazards of high risk. Brain Research, 1400:78-86.

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In personal and in society related context, people often evaluate the risk of environmental and technological hazards. Previous research addressing neuroscience of risk evaluation assessed particularly the direct personal risk of presented stimuli, which may have comprised for instance aspects of fear. Further, risk evaluation primarily was compared to tasks of other cognitive domains serving as control conditions, thus revealing general risk related brain activity, but not such specifically associated with estimating a higher level of risk. We here investigated the neural basis on which lay-persons individually evaluated the risk of different potential hazards for the society. Twenty healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while evaluating the risk of fifty more or less risky conditions presented as written terms. Brain activations during the individual estimations of ‘high’ against ‘low’ risk, and of negative versus neutral and positive emotional valences were analyzed. Estimating hazards to be of high risk was associated with activation in medial thalamus, anterior insula, caudate nucleus, cingulate cortex and further prefrontal and temporo-occipital areas. These areas were not involved according to an analysis of the emotion ratings. In conclusion, we emphasize a contribution of the mentioned brain areas involved to signal high risk, here not primarily associated with the emotional valence of the risk items. These areas have earlier been reported to be associated with, beside emotional, viscerosensitive and implicit processing. This leads to assumptions of an intuitive contribution, or a “gut-feeling”, not necessarily dependent of the subjective emotional valence, when estimating a high risk of environmental hazards.


4 citations in Web of Science®
5 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Clinical and Social Psychiatry Zurich West (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Deposited On:08 Mar 2012 16:01
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:34
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.brainres.2011.05.023
PubMed ID:21645880

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