The research, published in the journal Science, is part of a new field called neuroeconomics that uses brain imaging to try to understand how people make choices. Until now, most of that work had been focused on reward that things people will do for positive outcomes.
Dr. Gregory Berns of Emory University, who led the new study, told The Associated Press, that they were interested in the dark side of the equation, as he explained that dread often makes us make bad decisions. The standard economic theory says people should postpone bad outcomes for as long as possible, because something might happen in the interim to improve the outlook.
The MRI scans showed that a brain network that governs on how much pain people feel became active even before they were shocked, particularly the parts of this "pain matrix" that are linked to attention. The researchers concluded that the more the dread that bothered someone, the more attention pain-sensors in the brain were paying.