fMRI elaborates on stock answers

April 2, 2006

Your investment portfolio is tanking, and you question your stock choices. Perhaps an fMR scan can get you back on track.

Your investment portfolio is tanking, and you question your stock choices. Perhaps an fMR scan can get you back on track.

Stanford University researchers found that the nucleus accumbens activated two seconds before subjects made a "risk-seeking" stock purchase that was a mistake (Neuron 2005;47[5]:763-770). In contrast, the anterior insula activated just before subjects made suboptimal "risk-averse" stock choices.

It's known that potential rewards, such as a jackpot at Las Vegas, activate the nucleus accumbens. Now it's known that an activated nucleus accumbens tends to make one more risk seeking. That's why casinos keep the free drinks flowing and the winning bells clanging.

Insurance companies, conversely, relay doom and gloom, thus activating the anterior insula. Such an activation, according to the study, is a predictor of making a risk-averse choice-like buying insurance.