ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside July 2009

The Science of Economic Bubbles and Busts

The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression has prompted a reassessment of how financial markets work and how people make decisions about money



Aaron Goodman

It has all the makings of a classic B movie scene. A gunman puts a pistol to the victim’s forehead, and the screen fades to black before a loud bang is heard. A forensic specialist who traces the bullet’s trajectory would see it traversing the brain’s prefrontal cortex—a central site for processing decisions. The few survivors of usually fatal injuries to this brain region should not be surprised to find their personalities dramatically altered. In one of the most cited case histories in all of neurology, Phineas Gage, a 19th-century railroad worker, had his prefrontal cortex penetrated by an iron rod; he lived to tell the tale but could no longer make sensible decisions. Cocaine addicts may actually self-inflict similar damage. The resulting dysfunction may cause even abstaining addicts to crave the drug any time, say, the thudding bass of a techno tune reminds them of when they were stoned.

Even people who do not use illicit drugs or get shot in the head have to contend with the

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content


It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com.
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Holiday Sale

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Blow-Out Sale

Enter code:
HOLIDAY 2014
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >

X

Email this Article

X