The emotional areas of the brain spring into action when one if faced with a tricky decision, according to a new study.
Ming Hsu of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his colleagues compared brain activity of study participants in two betting games. As they played, the scientists watched changes in their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
In one game, researchers gave them the chance to guess the color of a card drawn from a deck containing an equal number of red and blue cards, and to bet on whether they were right.
In the other game, the ratio of red to blue cards remained unknown. Players in this game were less likely to put money on their guess. And there was a burst of activity in their brain's emotion-processing centers, the online edition of Nature reported.
Aldo Rustichini, a decision-theory researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, points out that decision-making involves both emotion and reasoning.
"It's important to try to understand how these two large networks we usually attribute to emotion and reason are interacting," Rustichini adds.
Ming and his fellow researchers now intend to investigate whether indirect stimulation of the emotion-control centers can make a person more cautious.