Most of our decisions involve a certain degree of risk regarding the outcomes of our choices. People vary in the way they make decisions, resulting in different levels of risk-taking behavior. These differences have been linked to prefrontal theta band activity. However, a direct functional relationship between prefrontal theta band activity and risk-taking has not yet been demonstrated.

We used noninvasive brain stimulation to test the functional relevance of prefrontal oscillatory theta activity for the regulatory control of risk-taking behavior.

In a within-subject experiment, 31 healthy participants received theta (6.5 Hertz [Hz]), gamma (40 Hz), and sham transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) over the left prefrontal cortex (lPFC). During stimulation, participants completed a task assessing their risk-taking behavior as well as response times and sensitivity to value and outcome probabilities. Electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded before and immediately after stimulation to investigate possible long-lasting stimulation effects.

Theta band, but not gamma band or sham, tACS led to a significant reduction in risk-taking behavior, indicating a frequency-specific effect of prefrontal brain stimulation on the modulation of risk-taking behavior. Moreover, theta band stimulation led to increased response times and decreased sensitivity to reward values. EEG data analyses did not show an offline increase in power in the stimulated frequencies after the stimulation protocol.

These findings provide direct empirical evidence for the effects of prefrontal theta band stimulation on behavioral risk-taking regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number147365
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Early online date12 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • decision neuroscience
  • risk-taking behavior
  • tACS
  • theta activity
  • theta frequency
  • Theta activity
  • Theta frequency
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Decision neuroscience

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