Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Human Brain Loves Surprises, Research Reveals

Date:
April 16, 2001
Source:
Emory University Health Sciences Center
Summary:
Most people love surprises. Scientists at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine may have discovered why some people actually crave the unexpected.

Most people love surprises. Scientists at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine may have discovered why some people actually crave the unexpected.

Through a unique collaboration between Emory's Functional Neuroimaging Group, led by Gregory S. Berns, M.D., Ph.D., and Read Montague, M.D., Ph.D., at Baylor's Center for Theoretical Neuroscience, scientists are beginning to reveal the biological basis of the human attraction to surprising events. Sam McClure, a Baylor doctoral candidate, also contributed to the study published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The Emory and Baylor scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure changes in human brain activity in response to a sequence of pleasurable stimuli, in this case, fruit juice and water. In the study, a computer-controlled device squirted fruit juice and water into the mouths of research participants. The patterns of juice and water squirts were either predictable or completely unpredictable.

"Until recently, scientists assumed that the neural reward pathways, which act as high-speed Internet connections to the pleasure centers of the brain, responded to what people like," said Montague. "However, when we tested this idea in brain scanning experiments, we found the reward pathways responded much more strongly to the unexpectedness of stimuli instead of their pleasurable effects." Study subjects were told nothing about what would take place. As a result, the brain was a clean slate, allowing scientists to clearly see what area of the brain was registering activity.

Contrary to the scientists' expectations, the human reward pathways in the brain responded most strongly to the unpredictable sequence of squirts. The area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which scientists previously have identified as a pleasure center of the brain, recorded a particularly strong response to the unexpectedness of a sequence of stimuli.

"We find that so-called pleasure centers in the brain do not react equally to any pleasurable substance, but instead react more strongly when the pleasures are unexpected," Berns said. "This means that the brain finds unexpected pleasures more rewarding than expected ones, and it may have little to do with what people say they like."

Both Berns and Montague think their work may provide a better understanding of addictive diseases and disorders of decision making in humans. They believe that the new findings may help clarify the pathways involved in addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine, which are known to disrupt the normal function of the nucleus accumbens Other addictive disorders such as gambling also appear to influence this same brain pathway.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse, The National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression, and the Kane Family Foundation supported the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory University Health Sciences Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Emory University Health Sciences Center. "Human Brain Loves Surprises, Research Reveals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010415224316.htm>.
Emory University Health Sciences Center. (2001, April 16). Human Brain Loves Surprises, Research Reveals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010415224316.htm
Emory University Health Sciences Center. "Human Brain Loves Surprises, Research Reveals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/04/010415224316.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins