Loss aversion, a well-documented behavioral phenomenon, characterizes decisions under risk in adult populations. As such, loss aversion may provide a reliable measure of risky behavior. Surprisingly, little is known about loss aversion in adolescents, a group who manifests risk-taking behavior, or in anxiety disorders, which are associated with risk-avoidance. Finally, loss aversion is expected to be modulated by genotype, particularly the serotonin transporter (SERT) gene variant, based on its role in anxiety and impulsivity. This genetic modulation may also differ between anxious and healthy adolescents, given their distinct propensities for risk taking. The present work examines the modulation of loss aversion, an index of risk-taking, and reaction-time to decision, an index of impulsivity, by the serotonin-transporter-gene-linked polymorphisms (5HTTLPR) in healthy and clinically anxious adolescents. Findings show that loss aversion (1) does manifest in adolescents, (2) does not differ between healthy and clinically anxious participants, and (3), when stratified by SERT genotype, identifies a subset of anxious adolescents who are high SERT-expressers, and show excessively low loss-aversion and high impulsivity. This last finding may serve as preliminary evidence for 5HTTLPR as a risk factor for the development of comorbid disorders associated with risk-taking and impulsivity in clinically anxious adolescents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience