Jul 27, 2009 | 6
Give a dog a treat, and she just might learn that new trick. Could the same concept also help a human recover from a brain injury, or become a violin virtuoso?
Rewards, especially in combination with drugs that enhance the neurotransmitter dopamine, may boost both cognitive and tactile learning, according to research published today in the journal PLoS Biology.
“We have known a lot about reward mechanisms,” says Burkhard Pleger of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and lead author on the study, “but it was not well known how rewards influence sensory processing.”
Researchers designed a game to elucidate this process. Prior to each set of four consecutive trials, Pleger and his colleagues showed participants how much reward could potentially be earned (incentives ranged from zero to 80 pennies). Subjects then attempted to distinguish which of two electric currents applied to their index fingers carried a higher frequency. If they were correct, the visual monetary reward was displayed.
Feb 10, 2009 | 1
Do you squander all your dough at the casino? Maybe it's because your DNA is telling you to take risks with your money.
OK, it's not as simplistic as that. But Northwestern University researchers say they've linked two genes with our tendency to be bold or conservative investors, according to their study set to be published tomorrow in PLoS One. The genes regulate the brain's systems of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals important in areas of the brain that are active when we take or shun risk, respectively.
Jan 6, 2009 | 7
Make fun, if you must, but it turns out that love may not fade with time, after all — and leaves a lasting impression in our brains as well as our hearts, according to a recent study.
Researchers from Stony Brook University in New York scanned the brains of 10 women and seven men who had been married an average of 21 years and insisted they were still madly in love with their spouses. When the scientists showed the subjects photos of their partners, the fMRIs detected intense activity in the ventral tegmental area of their brains, a region that produces the pleasure-giving neurotransmitter dopamine. A previous study of 17 people in the early, lustful months of relationships showed similar activity in the same brain area, a core component of our motivation and reward network.
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