Most of us remember the lesson in high school biology or psychology about the scientific discovery of a pleasure circuit in the mammalian brain. Maybe you can still visualize the textbook photos of the rats with electrodes placed in their skulls (actually the subcortical nucleus accumbens – NAcc – region of their brains) and how the rodents could stimulate their NAcc by pressing a lever, which they did with abandon to the exclusion of eating, drinking, sex and sleep. In humans, the NAcc is associated with pleasure, addiction, laughter, aggression and fear. It may also have something to do with the gyrations in today’s financial markets.
At Café Scientifique this evening (6/8) at 6:00 pm, Dr. Brian Knutson will review findings that financial incentives recruit the same brain regions that rats worked so hard to stimulate and imply that abstract financial decisions (e.g., investing, purchasing) intimately involve emotion, and not just reason. These new findings have spurred developments that will allow researchers to predict peoples financial (and other choices) – even before they occur.
Dr. Knutson is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Stanford. His research focuses on the neural basis of emotion and the implications for social-decision making. By watching the brain in action as people make investment or shopping decisions, Knutson has helped uncover the neurological/emotional underpinnings of human choice.
The presentation, which will take place at SRI in Menlo Park, is open to all and free of charge. No reservations are necessary. Doors open at 5:15 and are closed when capacity is reached.