Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cognitive Neuroscience

First Advisor's Name

Matthew T. Sutherland

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Angela R. Laird

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Raul Gonzalez

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Michelle Hospital

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


cognitive psychology

Date of Defense



Lower financial savings among individuals experiencing adverse social determinants of health (SDoH) such as low socioeconomic status (low-SES) increases health inequities during times of crisis. Despite evidence suggesting that economic stability established by better money-saving behavior may minimize socioeconomic disparities, neurocognitive mechanisms that regulate money-saving behavior remains to be understood. In the current studies, we utilized neuroimaging, behavioral, self-report, and real-world behavior data to examine neurocognitive mechanisms associated with money-saving behavior among low-SES population. In study 1, we utilized Balloon Analogue Risk task (BART) to probe decision-making (DM) related brain activity and further examined the relationship between brain activity, BART-performance, and real-world money-saving behavior. In study 2, we utilized n-back task to probe working memory (WM) mechanism and characterized the relationship between WM-related brain activity, WM-performance, and money-saving behavior. In study 3, we utilized resting-state fMRI data to characterize the resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) of the brain regions associated with WM and their relationship with money-saving behavior. Regarding DM related brain-behavior relationship, elevated risk-related amygdala activity was associated with improved strategic-DM (i.e., BART task-performance measure) and improved strategic-DM, in turn, predicted better savings. Additionally, in an exploratory analysis, personality trait (i.e., alexithymia) moderated this mediation such that for individuals with low alexithymia (versus higher alexithymia), elevated risk-related amygdala activity was associated with better savings. Regarding WM related brain activity and associated behavior, laboratory WM performance (dprime) mediated the association between WM related DMN deactivation and real-world savings behavior such that increased DMN deactivation improves dprime which, in turn, results in better savings. Further, considering the rsFC of brain regions related to WM and associated behavior, dprime mediated the effect of fronto-limbic and fronto-frontal connectivity on real-world saving behavior such that higher frontal-limbic connectivity predicted worsened WM performance, which in turn, predicted reduced savings. Similarly, higher fronto-frontal connectivity predicted better WM performance, and, in turn, better WM performance predicted improved savings. This present study provides evidence that interventions targeting brain activity related to higher order executive function (DM and WM) and associated cognitive performance can augment success in terms of real-world money-saving behavior.





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