Brain study finds what eases pain of financial loss

Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:51am EST
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Financial market traders and keen gamblers take note. Scientists have found that a chemical in the region of the brain involved in sensory and reward systems is crucial to whether people simply brush off the pain of financial losses.

Scientists say the study points the way to the possible development of drugs to treat problem gamblers and sheds light on what may have been going on in the brains of Wall Street and City of London traders as the 2008 financial crisis took hold.

"Pathological gambling that happens at regular casinos is bad enough, but I think it's also happening a lot now at Casino Wall Street and Casino City of London," said Julio Licinio, editor of the Molecular Psychiatry journal which reviewed and published the brain study on Tuesday.

"We like to believe we all have free will and make whatever decisions we want to, but this shows it's not so easy," he said in a telephone interview. "Many people have a predisposure to make certain kinds of decisions."

For the study, a team of researchers led by Hidehiko Takahashi of the Kyoto University graduate school of medicine in Japan, scanned the brains of 19 healthy men with positron emission tomography (PET) scans after they had completed a gambling task.

"LOSS AVERSION"

The experiment showed that a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, called norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, is central to the response to losing money.

Those with low levels of norepinephrine transporters had higher levels of the chemical in a crucial part of their brain - leading them to be less aroused by and less sensitive to the pain of losing money, the researchers found.   Continued...

 
A contestant stacks chips during the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, November 8, 2010. 


REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus