Diffuse optical tomography (DOT) is a variant of functional near infrared spectroscopy and has the capability of mapping or reconstructing three dimensional (3D) hemodynamic changes due to brain activity. Common methods used in DOT image analysis to define brain activation have limitations because the selection of activation period is relatively subjective. General linear model (GLM)-based analysis can overcome this limitation. In this study, we combine the atlas-guided 3D DOT image reconstruction with GLM-based analysis (i.e., voxel-wise GLM analysis) to investigate the brain activity that is associated with risk decision-making processes. Risk decision-making is an important cognitive process and thus is an essential topic in the field of neuroscience. The Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART) is a valid experimental model and has been commonly used to assess human risk-taking actions and tendencies while facing risks. We have used the BART paradigm with a blocked design to investigate brain activations in the prefrontal and frontal cortical areas during decision-making from 37 human participants (22 males and 15 females). Voxel-wise GLM analysis was performed after a human brain atlas template and a depth compensation algorithm were combined to form atlas-guided DOT images. In this work, we wish to demonstrate the excellence of using voxel-wise GLM analysis with DOT to image and study cognitive functions in response to risk decision-making. Results have shown significant hemodynamic changes in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during the active-choice mode and a different activation pattern between genders; these findings correlate well with published literature in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and fNIRS studies. Hum Brain Mapp 35:4249–4266, 2014. © 2014 The Authors. Human Brain Mapping Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.