Lost at poker again? Blame your brain, not your luck

It's not plain bad luck. The reason behind your poker losses lies in your brain.

By: IANS | New York | Published: January 9, 2016 9:13:53 pm
brain, gambling, poker, losses, caution, addiction, enthusiasm, anterior insula, nucleus accumbens, risk, roulette wheel, winning, losing, neurology, Neuron, single-brain connection The angel and devil debating temptation over your shoulder may not be that far from reality after all. Research says two parts of your brain — one cautious and the other enthusiastic — determine your risk-taking behaviour, and your poker outcomes. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Can’t figure out why you lose every time while playing poker with friends? Blame it on poor single-brain connection.

According to a study, people with a stronger connection between two specific brain regions have a more cautious financial outlook.

The researchers studied the connections between two brain regions — anterior insula and nucleus accumbens — and how the two work together.

“Activity in one brain region appears to indicate ‘uh oh, I might lose money’, but, in another it seems to indicate ‘oh yay, I could win something’,” said Brian Knutson, associate professor of psychology from Stanford University. “The balance between this ‘uh oh’ and ‘oh yay’ activity differs between people and can determine the gambling decisions we make,” he added.


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Using a novel MRI technique, Knutson found a tract that directly connects the two brain regions.

Participants were given $10 that they could gamble or not. Entering an MRI chamber, they could see a roulette wheel and the odds for winning or losing.

In one bet, they had equal odds to win — or lose $3. In another, they had higher odds of winning a smaller amount and small odds of losing a lot — or vice versa. As the participants weighed the various gambles, the researchers tracked activity in the two brain regions.

The findings revealed that even the cautious ones with a well-insulated connection would sometimes place risky bets. And when they did, the more cautious region stayed quieter while the enthusiastic region grew more active.

“The study helps scientists and policymakers — who want to better understand risky decision-making in the context of gambling and addiction —develop more effective interventions,” noted the authors in a paper that appeared in the journal Neuron.

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