It is acknowledged that there are those who have the uncanny ability to win when there's money on the table.
A new study suggests that a specific brain area helps people use the prospect of success to better prepare their thoughts and actions, thus increasing odds that a reward will be won.
Psychology researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that whenever study participants were shown a dollar sign, a predetermined cue that a correct answer on the task at hand would result in a financial reward.
Researchers believe that short bursts of dopamine are responsible for the activity. Dopamine is the brain's chemical reward system.
They found that using dopamine, the brain region then began coordinating interactions between the brain's cognitive control and motivation networks, apparently priming the brain for a looming "show me the money" situation.
Monetary rewards were offered on trials in which the money cue appeared provided that the subjects answered accurately and within a specified timeframe.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers detected a network of eight different brain regions that responded to the multitasking challenge and two that responded to both the challenge and the motivational cue (a dollar sign, the monetary reward cue for a swift, correct answer).
"In this region (left DLPFC), you can actually see the unique neural signature of the brain activity related to the reward outcome," Adam C. Savine said.
The finding provides insight into the way people pursue goals and how motivation drives goal-oriented behavior. It also could provide clues to what might be happening with different populations of people with cognitive deficiencies in pursuing goals.
The study is published Aug. 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience.