Science

Survival mechanism in the brain responds better to failure, uncertainty: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on August 31, 2020

Researchers examined brain conditions of uncertainty and conflict over which course of action to take, in an environment of risks and opportunities

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center found that the survival mechanism in the brain gets activated during the condition of uncertainty, stressful conflict. This makes people willing to take more risks, as per the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers noted that this may open avenues for better future therapies for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or disorders associated with excessive risk-taking, such as addiction and mania.

For the study, the researchers examined brain conditions of uncertainty and conflict over which course of action to take, in an environment of risks and opportunities.

They identified the areas of the brain responsible for the delicate balance between desiring gain and avoiding potential loss along the way.

This is substantiated by a report by Xinhua news agency as it stated that the human brain is affected more by prior experience of failure or punishment than positive experience of success and reward, something that encourages future avoidance of risk.

The study was performed among epilepsy patients who had electrodes inserted into their brains for testing prior to surgery to remove the area of the brain causing epileptic seizures, the paper noted.

The patients were asked to play a computer game that included risks and opportunities. During this, the researchers recorded the electrical activity in their nerve cells immediately after they won or lost money after taking risks in the game.

It was found that the neurons in the area of the inner prefrontal cortex responded much more to lose (punishment) than to the gaining (reward) of coins.

Published on August 31, 2020

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