Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 3, pp 679–689 | Cite as

Responsibility modulates the neural correlates of regret during the sequential risk-taking task

  • Lin Li
  • Zhiyuan Liu
  • Huanghuang Niu
  • Li Zheng
  • Xuemei Cheng
  • Peng Sun
  • Fanzhi Anita Zhou
  • Xiuyan GuoEmail author
Research Article


Responsibility is a necessary prerequisite in the experience of regret. The present fMRI study investigated the modulation of responsibility on the neural correlates of regret during a sequential risk-taking task. Participants were asked to open a series of boxes consecutively and decided when to stop. Each box contained a reward, except for one containing a devil to zero participant’s gain in the trial. Once participants stopped, both collected gains and missed chances were revealed. We manipulated responsibility by setting two different contexts. In the Self (high responsibility) context, participants opened boxes and decided when to stop by themselves. In the Computer (low responsibility) context, a computer program opened boxes and decided when to stop for participants. Before each trial, participants were required to decide whether it would be a Self or a Computer context. Behaviorally, participants felt less regret (more relief) for gain outcome and more regret for the loss outcome in the high-responsibility context than low responsibility context. At the neural level, when experiencing a gain, high-responsibility trials were characterized by stronger activation in mPFC, pgACC, mOFC, and striatum with decreasing number of missed chances relative to low responsibility trials. When experiencing a loss, low responsibility trials were associated with stronger activation in dACC and bilateral insula than high-responsibility trials. Conversely, during a loss, high-responsibility trials showed more striatum activity than low responsibility trials. These results highlighted the sensitivity of the frontal region, striatum, and insula to changes in level of responsibility.


fMRI Decision making Responsibility Striatum Regret 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [31271090; 71371180]; the National Education Research Project of China [CBA160186]; and the Key Program of the National Social Science Foundation of China [14AZD106].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

221_2017_5165_MOESM1_ESM.docx (90 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 90 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lin Li
    • 1
    • 4
  • Zhiyuan Liu
    • 2
  • Huanghuang Niu
    • 1
  • Li Zheng
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Xuemei Cheng
    • 2
  • Peng Sun
    • 1
  • Fanzhi Anita Zhou
    • 5
  • Xiuyan Guo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Shanghai Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance, Department of PhysicsEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, Ministry of Education, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, School of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  4. 4.National Demonstration Center for Experimental Psychology EducationEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  5. 5.Zhejiang Yuying Education GroupHangzhouChina

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