Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Risk aversity visible in the brain

Date:
November 26, 2012
Source:
Universität Bonn
Summary:
Some people live their lives by the motto "no risk - no fun!" and relish risk-taking. Others are clearly more cautious and focus primarily on safety when investing and for other business activities. Scientists have studied the attitudes towards risk in a group of 56 subjects. They found that in people who preferred safety, certain regions of the brain show a higher level of activation when they are confronted with quite unforeseeable situations.  In addition, they do not distinguish as clearly as risk takers whether a situation is more or less risky than expected.

Some people live their lives by the motto "no risk -- no fun!" and relish risks. Others are clearly more cautious and focus primarily on safety when investing and for other business activities. Scientists from the University of Bonn in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Zurich studied the attitudes towards risk in a group of 56 subjects. They found that in people who preferred safety, certain regions of the brain show a higher level of activation when they are confronted with quite unforeseeable situations. In addition, they do not distinguish as clearly as risk takers whether a situation is more or less risky than expected.

The results have just been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"We were especially interested in the link between risk preferences and the brain regions processing this information," says Prof. Dr. Bernd Weber from the Center for Economics and Neuroscience (CENs) at the University of Bonn. First, the researchers tested a total of 56 subjects for their willingness to take risks. "In an economic game, the test subjects had a choice between a secured payout and a lottery," reports Sarah Rudorf from CENs, the study's principal author. Those who showed a strong preference for the lottery in this test were categorized as risk takers. Others preferred the secured payout even if the lottery's odds of winning were clearly better. They were put in the risk-averse group.

In risk-averse individuals, certain regions of the brain are activated more strongly

Then the test subjects played a card game in a brain scanner to study their risk perception. Cards carrying numbers from one to ten were shown on the video glasses in front of their eyes. Each time, two cards were randomly drawn. Before the subjects were shown the cards, they were asked to place bets on whether the second card would have a higher or a lower number than the first one. "The statistical probability for either case to occur is always the same: fifty-fifty," says Prof. Weber. "This is important so that all subjects, whether they are risk takers or not, experience risky situations inside the scanner." They were not able to assess their probability of winning their bet until they saw the first card. Here, the researchers found that in the subjects who tended to avoid risks, two specific regions of the brain were activated more strongly than in those who were willing to take risks. These areas are the ventral striatum and the insular cortex. The ventral striatum reacts both to the probability of winning, as well as to how well an individual can predict the outcome of the bet. The insular cortex is particularly sensitive to the risk a situation carries, and for whether it is higher or lower than anticipated.

Risk seekers adjust their strategy after lucky streaks

Sarah Rudorf summarized the results, "Individuals in whom these regions of the brain are activated at a higher level seem to perceive risks more clearly and assess them as more negative than those who are willing to take risks." Risk-averse individuals seem to overestimate the con­sequences of risk, and they did not distinguish as clearly between situations that turned out to be more or less risky than expected. In contrast, the test subjects who tended to take greater risks also focused their behavior more towards the wins and losses, and more clearly changed their strategy after negative situations.

Study is first to show the neurobiological mechanisms

"This study is the first to show the neurobiological mechanisms of how individual risk preferences determine risk perception," says Prof. Weber. "This also has effects on behavior in the areas of finance and health." In a next step, the researchers want to study the consequences these results have on economic decisions such as in the stock market. "This might even allow improving the advising process for investors with regard to their individual risk behavior," says Prof. Weber. And he considers health another important area. Smokers know that what they do is very dangerous, and yet they smoke. "If we learned more about smokers' attitudes towards risk, we might be able to provide information for developing better anti-smoking campaigns."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universität Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Rudorf, K. Preuschoff, B. Weber. Neural Correlates of Anticipation Risk Reflect Risk Preferences. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012; 32 (47): 16683 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4235-11.2012

Cite This Page:

Universität Bonn. "Risk aversity visible in the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126110651.htm>.
Universität Bonn. (2012, November 26). Risk aversity visible in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126110651.htm
Universität Bonn. "Risk aversity visible in the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121126110651.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) — New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) — The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. 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