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Brain activity indicates a willingness to take risks

Brain activity indicates a willingness to take risks

Brain activity indicates willingness to take risks
05.02.2014

The human brain makes up about three percent of body weight and with around 100 billion nerve cells, it takes up about 15 percent of the total energy requirement. It is truly the masterpiece of evolution and still far from being researched.

People have never been able to make as many decisions as they do today. Philosophers as well as scientists have long been investigating what exactly influences our risk behavior and why we take more risk in some situations than would otherwise be the case. Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin may have come a little closer to the answer. In a study published in the journal "Proccedings of the National Academy of Science" (PNAS), the researchers explain that certain areas are more active when we make more risk-taking decisions.

Numerous studies in the past have already examined the interaction of brain regions and decision-making processes. Of particular interest was the question of whether the decision made can be predicted about the activities in individual areas of the brain. Previous studies have shown that certain regions in the human brain help to evaluate different choices, i.e. are responsible for the ability to reflect.

For the current study, the scientists led by Sarah Helfinstein examined 108 men and women between the ages of 21 and 50 with a functional magnetic resonance tomograph (fMRI) and recorded their brain activity during a special test. The scientists were interested in how the risk behavior in the brain can be demonstrated.

Pump on or stop?
Previous studies have shown that people who made a risky decision in the BART test are also more willing to take risks in real life. They generally liked to smoke, were more likely to take drugs, had unprotected sex more often, and also displayed a riskier style of driving.

During the experiment, the participants inflated an average of 18 balloons, stopping eleven times before they burst. The recorded data showed the researchers which brain regions were active before the decision to quit and which ones to pump more air into when the decision was made.

72 percent of the decisions could be predicted. The data could be filtered using an algorithm. This enabled the researchers to correctly predict almost 72 percent of decisions made based on the activity pattern in the brain. According to the researchers, a lot of brain areas are involved in the decision to take risk-taking behavior. In addition to the island bark, the startum, thalamus and parietal lobe are more active than usual. Whether other behavior can be predicted by recording brain activity in the future is an interesting thought and could provide material for some dystopia. (fr)

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