February 2015, Vol. 27, No. 2, Pages 387-399
Common Neural Correlates of Intertemporal Choices and Intelligence in Adolescents
Converging behavioral evidence indicates that temporal discounting, measured by intertemporal choice tasks, is inversely related to intelligence. At the neural level, the parieto-frontal network is pivotal for complex, higher-order cognitive processes. Relatedly, underrecruitment of the pFC during a working memory task has been found to be associated with steeper temporal discounting. Furthermore, this network has also been shown to be related to the consistency of intertemporal choices. Here we report an fMRI study that directly investigated the association of neural correlates of intertemporal choice behavior with intelligence in an adolescent sample (n = 206; age 13.7–15.5 years). After identifying brain regions where the BOLD response during intertemporal choice was correlated with individual differences in intelligence, we further tested whether BOLD responses in these areas would mediate the associations between intelligence, the discounting rate, and choice consistency. We found positive correlations between BOLD response in a value-independent decision network (i.e., dorsolateral pFC, precuneus, and occipital areas) and intelligence. Furthermore, BOLD response in a value-dependent decision network (i.e., perigenual ACC, inferior frontal gyrus, ventromedial pFC, ventral striatum) was positively correlated with intelligence. The mediation analysis revealed that BOLD responses in the value-independent network mediated the association between intelligence and choice consistency, whereas BOLD responses in the value-dependent network mediated the association between intelligence and the discounting rate. In summary, our findings provide evidence for common neural correlates of intertemporal choice and intelligence, possibly linked by valuation as well as executive functions.