One person’s risky bet is another’s exciting opportunity
The difference between those outlooks comes down to more than just disposition: It turns out that people with a stronger connection between two brain regions have a more cautious financial outlook.
“Activity in one brain region appears to indicate ‘uh oh, I might lose money,’ but in another seems to indicate ‘oh yay, I could win something,'” said Brian Knutson, associate professor of psychology. “The balance between this ‘uh oh’ and ‘oh yay’ activity differs between people and can determine the gambling decisions we make.”
Researchers have tracked activity in those two brain regions – known as the anterior insula and nucleus accumbens – for the past decade, but Knutson was curious how the two work together. Are they directly connected, or do they both influence a different brain region that makes the ultimate decision?
Knowing this could help scientists and policymakers who want to better understand risky decision-making in the context of gambling and addiction and develop more effective interventions.
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