October 9, 2018 – Brain Stimulation and Risk


Anchor lead: Can a finding in gambling monkeys help people control risk taking behavior? Elizabeth Tracey reports

A specific brain area has been shown to impact a trained monkey’s risk-taking choices, a Johns Hopkins study reveals. Veit Stuphorn, a neuroscientist and senior author, says the finding may ultimately lead to effective treatments for compulsive behaviors, perhaps beginning with a training approach.

Stuphorn: Another and maybe more revolutionary approach would be to directly change activity in the brain. And that’s already being done in deep brain stimulation in very severe cases of certain diseases. In principle this could be done too in people that have very very strong problems in engaging risk in the right way, for example people that have a gambling addiction, or addiction in general can be seen as a case where someone really doesn’t value risk in the right way. However I should say before we start doing this sort of thing we need to understand the system much, much better.   :30

Stuphorn notes that when this brain area was stimulated, monkeys found risk taking much less attractive, reducing their risky choices by 30 to 40%. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.