Why You Make Risky Decisions: The Impact of Brain Fluctuations

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Human beings are inconsistent and sometimes irrational. You may make one decision one day and the opposite decision another day. And when making risky decisions, you may be even more hesitated whether to choose a safe option or a risky option. What makes you so erratic?

    

    

Spontaneous brain fluctuations influence your decision-making

    

In the latest study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers found that the minute-to-minute fluctuations in human brain activity impact whether people make risky decisions.

    

For the study, the researchers asked 43 people to lie in an MRI scanner and monitored their brain activity in the dopaminergic midbrain, the area of the human brain containing most of the dopamine neurons. Dopamine, a chemical released by nerve cells, plays a role in risky decision-making.

    

    

When the activity in that brain area was either very high or very low, the participants were asked to choose between a safe option (gaining a small amount of money) and a risky option (gambling to try to get a larger amount of money). If they chose the risky option and lost, they would receive nothing.

    

It turned out that when the brain area was in a state of low activity before participants were presented with their options, they were more likely to choose the risky option.

    

"Our brains may have evolved to have spontaneous fluctuations in a key brain area for decision making because it makes us more unpredictable and better able to cope with a changing world," explained senior author Dr. Robb Rutledge.

    

    

The researchers are going to continue their study to find out more impacts of brain fluctuations, and to see whether brain fluctuations are related to some medical conditions.

    

Other known factors that can affect risk-taking behavior include:

—Drugs that are routinely taken by people with Parkinson's disease. These drugs can influence the neurotransmitter dopamine.

—Aging. When you are young, you are more likely to make risky decisions.

    

Next time when you make important decisions, wait a few minutes and think twice in order to make your brain more active, then you might be able to avoid risks.

 

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