October 8, 2018 – Monkey Brain


Anchor lead: A new study in monkeys helps understand risk taking behavior, Elizabeth Tracey reports

Training monkeys to gamble has identified a new brain region involved in the actual process of choosing to take risks, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found. Veit Stuphorn, associate professor of neuroscience, says the results were really novel.

Stuphorn: We found that when we inactivated this brain region the monkeys systematically made different decisions, so this brain region really is causally involved in decision making, but then secondly, and that came as a big surprise to us, this brain region has a very specific effect. So what it does is the monkeys under normal circumstances like to take risks, so they’re really go for the gambles with big outcomes, even if there’s a very small probability that they’ll get the big outcome, but now when we inactivate SEF, that goes down.  :31

SEF stands for supplementary eye field, and while Stuphorn isn’t surprised by its proximity to brain areas involved in sight, he says the fact that it actually appears to reduce predilection for risk is surprising, and may improve our understanding of risk taking in people. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.