Scientists Find ‘Money Loss’ Fear Button In Brain
February 9, 2010
The amygdalae seems to be the section of the brain responsible for the economic choices, and our willingness to take monetary risks.
The study took two groups: one was of two men with a rare genetic disorder that destroyed the amygdalae, and the other were of patients without any damage.
They were then asked to make a serious of gambles involving losing and gaining money.
The types of bets presented were:
- 50/50 probability that they would gain $20 or lose $5, which most participants happily took.
- 50/50 probability that they would lose or gain $20, which most rejected.
- 50/50 probability that they would gain $20 or lose $15, which most also rejected.
In all cases, the two with damage to the amygdalae were more likely to take all risks, including the one that would give them an equal chance to losing all their money or gaining double.
“Monetary-loss aversion has been studied in behavioral economics for some time, but this is the first time that patients have been reported who lack it entirely,” first-author of the study, Benedetto de Martino, explained.
“We think this shows that the amygdala is critical for triggering a sense of caution toward making gambles in which you might lose. Loss aversion has been observed in many economic studies, from monkeys trading tokens for food to people on high-stakes game shows, but this is the first clear evidence of a special brain structure that is responsible for fear of such losses.”
The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).