alexa A critical review of sex differences in decision-making tasks: focus on the Iowa Gambling Task.


Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy

Author(s): van den Bos R, Homberg J, de Visser L

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Abstract It has been observed that men and women show performance differences in the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), a task of decision-making in which subjects through exploration learn to differentiate long-term advantageous from long-term disadvantageous decks of cards: men choose more cards from the long-term advantageous decks than women within the standard number of 100 trials. Here, we aim at discussing psychological mechanisms and neurobiological substrates underlying sex differences in IGT-like decision-making. Our review suggests that women focus on both win-loss frequencies and long-term pay-off of decks, while men focus on long-term pay-off. Furthermore, women may be more sensitive to occasional losses in the long-term advantageous decks than men. As a consequence hereof, women need 40-60 trials in addition before they reach the same level of performance as men. These performance differences are related to differences in activity in the orbitofrontal cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as well as in serotonergic activity and left-right hemispheric activity. Sex differences in orbitofrontal cortex activity may be due to organisational effects of gonadal hormones early in life. The behavioural and neurobiological differences in the IGT between men and women are an expression of more general sex differences in the regulation of emotions. We discuss these findings in the context of sex differences in information processing related to evolutionary processes. Furthermore we discuss the relationship between these findings and real world decision-making. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This article was published in Behav Brain Res and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy

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