Gambling MonkeysDURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University Medical Center neurobiologists have pinpointed circuitry in the brains of monkeys that assesses the level of risk in a given action. Their findings -- gained from experiments in which they gave the monkeys a chance to gamble to receive juice rewards -- could give insights into why humans compulsively engage in risky behaviors, including gambling, unsafe sex, drug use and overeating.
The researchers, Michael Platt, M.D., and Allison McCoy
To their surprise, the monkeys overwhelmingly preferred to gamble by looking at the risky target. This preference held, regardless of whether the scientists made the risky target reward more variable, or whether the monkeys had received more or less fruit juice during the course of the day.
Even when the researchers subjected the monkeys to a string of "losses," the high of a "win" appeared to keep them going, said Platt.
"While it's always dangerous to anthropomorphize," said Platt, we still do it. Maybe training a monkey to anthropomorphize would help explain it.
"We don't think the posterior cingulate cortex is by any means the only area that's important for assessing risk," but it does sound almost as funny as "poker monkeys."
What's more, said Platt, the studies with monkeys can guide studies in mice, but he does not think gambling mice will be nearly as funny as the poker monkeys.
" it seemed as if these monkeys got a high out of getting a big reward that obliterated any memory of all the losses that they would experience following that big reward," said Platt
This whole experiment is probably just another way to use wild animals to get around the laws and open more casinos.
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