The population of people above 65 years old continues to grow, and there is mounting evidence that as humans age they are more likely to make errors. However, the specific effect of neuroanatomical aging on the efficiency of economic decision-making is poorly understood. We used whole-brain voxel-based morphometry analysis to determine where reduction of gray matter volume in healthy female and male adults over the age of 65 years correlates with a classic measure of economic irrationality: violations of the Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preference. All participants were functionally normal with Mini-Mental State Examination scores ranging between 26 and 30. While our elders showed the previously reported decline in rationality compared with younger subjects, chronological age per se did not correlate with rationality measures within our population of elders. Instead, reduction of gray matter density in ventrolateral prefrontal cortex correlates tightly with irrational behavior. Interestingly, using a large fMRI sample and meta-analytic tool with Neurosynth, we found that this brain area shows strong coactivation patterns with nearly all of the value-associated regions identified in previous studies. These findings point toward a neuroanatomic locus for economic rationality in the aging brain and highlight the importance of understanding both anatomy and function in the study of aging, cognition, and decision-making.
- Brain structure
- Economic rationality
- Generalized axiom of revealed preference
- Ventrolateral prefrontal cortex
- Voxel-based morphometry
ASJC Scopus subject areas