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 11, 2009 | 1
Seventy percent of smokers in the U.S. say they want to quit, but studies show that only 2 percent to 3 percent manage to kick the habit each year. Incentives for quitting—avoiding potentially deadly lung cancer and premature wrinkling, saving thousands of dollars annually (in money spent on cigarettes and medical bills stemming from health-related ills), and perhaps even becoming president of the United States—are just not enough, it seems. Could cash succeed where all else failed?
It just might. Researchers report today in the New England Journal of Medicine that smokers were three times more likely to give up cigarettes in return for a few hundred bucks.
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