The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could explain why humans are inconsistent and sometimes irrational.
"Experts have long struggled to explain why people are so erratic, making one decision one day and the opposite decision another day. We know that the brain is constantly active, even when we aren't doing anything, so we wondered if this background activity affects our decision-making," said the study's co-lead author, Dr Tobias Hauser (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology).
Behaviour - Brain
"It appears that our inconsistent behaviour is partly explained by what our brain is doing when we are doing nothing."
The researchers focused on people in a state of rest (awake but not doing anything). At rest, the human brain remains active, with strong fluctuations in activity that remain unexplained.
Study - People - Task - MRI - Scanner
For the study, 43 people completed a gambling task while in an MRI scanner. They were asked to choose between a safe option (gaining a small amount of money) and a risky option (gambling to try to get a larger amount of money). If they chose the risky option and lost, they would receive nothing.
The researchers monitored brain activity in the dopaminergic midbrain, the area of the human brain containing most of the dopamine neurons. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter known to play a role in risky decision-making. Whenever the activity in that brain area was either very high or very low, the study participants were asked to make a decision between a risky and a safe option.
Researchers - Max - Planck - UCL - Centre
The researchers, based at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry & Ageing Research and the...
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