Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Detect Two Decision-making Pathways In Human Brain

Date:
October 19, 2004
Source:
NIH/National Institute On Aging
Summary:
In a classic Aesop fable, the Ant diligently stores food for the upcoming winter, while the Grasshopper lounges in the summer sun oblivious to the impeding change of season. Like the characters in this tale, people are often torn between impulsively choosing immediate rewards or more deliberatively planning for the future. And now new research supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests why: human decision-making is influenced by the interactions of two distinct systems in the brain which — like the Ant and Grasshopper — are often at odds.

In a classic Aesop fable, the Ant diligently stores food for the upcoming winter, while the Grasshopper lounges in the summer sun oblivious to the impeding change of season. Like the characters in this tale, people are often torn between impulsively choosing immediate rewards or more deliberatively planning for the future. And now new research supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests why: human decision-making is influenced by the interactions of two distinct systems in the brain which — like the Ant and Grasshopper — are often at odds.

The finding, published in the October 15, 2004, issue of Science has broad implications for predicting economic and behavioral health patterns, says Richard Suzman, Ph.D., Associate Director of the NIA's Behavioral and Social Research Program.

"This landmark study has the potential to reshape what we should look at as we try to understand how people make both health and economic decisions," Dr. Suzman says. "Since many health and economic decisions involve choosing between short term gratification and long term delays of rewards, this approach and its finding are likely to have a significant impact on our ability to influence health and economic behaviors such as diet, exercise, and saving for retirement."

For the study, a research team which included NIA grantee David Laibson, Ph.D., of Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA, asked 14 participants to choose between receiving money at an earlier or later date. For instance, a participant might be asked to choose between receiving $27.10 today versus $31.25 in a month; or $27.10 in two weeks versus $31.25 in six weeks. As the participants made these choices, their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This imaging tool enables researchers to measure second-by-second brain function in thousands of specific brain regions.

When participants chose between incentives that included an immediate reward, fMRI scans indicated heightened activity in parts of the brain, such as the limbic system, that are associated with emotional decision making. In contrast, deliberative and analytic regions of the brain, such as the prefrontal and parietal cortex, were activated by all decisions, even those that did not involve an immediate reward. However, when participants resisted immediate rewards and instead chose delayed rewards, activity was particularly strong in these deliberative areas of the brain.

"Our research suggests that consumers have competing economic value systems. Our emotional brain has a hard time imaging the future, even though our logical brain clearly sees the future consequences of our current actions," Dr. Laibson says. "Our emotion brain wants to max out the credit card, even though our logical brain knows we should save for retirement."

Or, as the authors conclude, "The idiosyncrasies of human preferences seem to reflect a competition between the impetuous limbic grasshopper and the provident ant within each of us."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute On Aging. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute On Aging. "Scientists Detect Two Decision-making Pathways In Human Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041019083549.htm>.
NIH/National Institute On Aging. (2004, October 19). Scientists Detect Two Decision-making Pathways In Human Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041019083549.htm
NIH/National Institute On Aging. "Scientists Detect Two Decision-making Pathways In Human Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041019083549.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) As states slash funding for mental health services, police officers are interacting more than ever with people suffering from schizophrenia and other serious disorders of the mind. The consequences can be deadly. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Newsy (Apr. 9, 2014) A University of Pittsburgh study found pop music that mentions alcohol is linked to higher drinking rates among teens. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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