How Do Some People Find A Way To Win – No Matter What?

There should be an image here!Whether it’s sports, poker or the high-stakes world of business, there are those who always find a way to win when there’s money on the table.

Now, for the first time, psychology researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are unraveling the workings of a novel brain network that may explain how these “money players” manage to keep their heads in the game.

Findings suggest that a specific brain area helps people use the prospect of success to better prepare their thoughts and actions, thus increasing odds that a reward will be won.

The study, published Aug. 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience, identified a brain region about two inches above the left eyebrow that sprang into action whenever study participants were shown a dollar sign, a predetermined cue that a correct answer on the task at hand would result in a financial reward.

Using what researchers believe are short bursts of dopamine — the brain’s chemical reward system — the brain region then began coordinating interactions between the brain’s cognitive control and motivation networks, apparently priming the brain for a looming “show me the money” situation.

“The surprising thing we see is that motivation acts in a preparatory manner,” says Adam C. Savine, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in psychology at Washington University. “This region gears up when the money cue is on.”

Savine and colleague Todd S. Braver, PhD, professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences, tested 16 subjects in an experiment that required appropriate preparation for one of two possible tasks, based upon advance information provided at the same time as the money cue. Monetary rewards were offered on trials in which the money cue appeared (which happened randomly on half the trials), provided that the subjects answered accurately and within a specified timeframe. Obtaining the reward was most likely when subjects used the advance task information most effectively.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers detected a network of eight different brain regions that responded to the multitasking challenge and two that responded to both the challenge and the motivational cue (a dollar sign, the monetary reward cue for a swift, correct answer).

In particular, Savine and Braver found that the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), located in the brain approximately two inches above the left eyebrow, is a key area that both predicts a win, or successful outcome, and prepares the motivational cognitive control network to win again.

Simply flashing the dollar-sign cue sparked immediate activation in the DLPFC region and it began interacting with other cognitive control and motivational functions in the brain, effectively putting these areas on alert that there was money to be won in the challenge ahead.

“In this region (left DLPFC), you can actually see the unique neural signature of the brain activity related to the reward outcome,” Savine says. “It predicts a reward outcome and it’s preparatory, in an integrative sort of way. The left DLPFC is the only region we found that seems to be primarily engaged when subjects get the motivational cue beforehand, it’s the region integrates that information with the task information and leads to the best task performance.

The researchers actually observed increased levels of oxygenated hemoglobin in the brain blood flow in these regions.

The finding provides insight into the way people pursue goals and how motivation drives goal-oriented behavior. It also could provide clues to what might be happening with different populations of people with cognitive deficiencies in pursuing goals.

Savine and Braver sought to determine the way that motivation and cognitive control are represented in the brain. They found two brain networks — one involved in reward processing, and one involved in the ability to flexibly shift mental goals (often referred to as “cognitive control”) — that were coactive on monetary reward trials. A key question that still needs to be answered is exactly how these two brain networks interact with each other.

Because the brain reward network appears to center on the brain chemical dopamine, the researchers speculate that the interactions between motivation and cognitive control depend upon “phasic bursts of dopamine.”

They wanted to see how the brain works when motivation impacts task-switching, how it heightens the importance of a one-rewarding goal while inhibiting the importance of non-rewarding goals.

“We wanted to see what motivates us to pursue one goal in the world above all others,” Savine says. “You might think that these mechanisms would have been addressed a long time ago in psychology and neuroscience, but it’s not been until the advent of fMRI about 15-20 years ago that we’ve had the tools to address this question in humans, and any progress in this area has been very, very recent.”

In this kind of test, as in the workplace, many distractions exist. In the midst of a deadline project with an “eye on the prize,” the phone still rings, background noise of printers and copying machines persist, an interesting world outside the window beckons and colleagues drop in to seek advice. A person’s ability to control his or her cognition — all the things a brain takes in — is directly linked to motivation. Time also plays a big factor. A project due in three weeks can be completed with some distraction; a project due tomorrow inhibits a person’s response to interrupting friends and colleagues and allows clearer focus on the goal.

The researchers intend to explore the left DLPFC more as a “uniquely predictive measure of pursuing rewarded outcomes in motivated settings,” Savine says.”Another key research effort will seek to more directly quantify the involvement of dopamine chemical release during these tasks.”

And they may test other motivators besides money, such as social rewards, or hunger or thirst, to see “if different motivators are all part of the same reward currency, engaging the same brain network that we’ve shown to be activated by monetary rewards,” Savine says.

[Photo above by shoobydooby / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Todd Braver @ Washington University in St. Louis

[awsbullet:mensa casino gambling]

Like To Gamble? It Is Now Legal To Bet On Movie Box-Office Futures

The feds have approved a proposal for a media company to begin trading futures in box office movie revenues, even though the movie industry is opposed to the idea.The first movie that investors can legally bet on is the movie ‘Takers’, which is scheduled to be released on August 20th, 2010 by Sony Pictures. The objections by the movie industry includes the concern that outside agencies could try and manipulate performance of movies.

In a recent article it also stated that:

In approving the Media Derivatives request, the commission noted that the exchange created to handle the contracts had obtained an agreement from Rentrak Corporation, a company that compiles box-office numbers for the studios, to bar its employees from trading in the contracts. The exchange would also require any studio that uses the contracts as a hedge against the performance of its own films to set up a firewall between employees who do the trading and those who work on a film.

In a dissent that accompanied the commission’s approval, Bart Chilton, one of the commissioners, said the need to wall off studio employees from their own films pointed to what he called a “fundamental flaw” in reasoning behind the approval, since such contracts are intended to help those in various businesses manage financial risk.

What I don’t understand is this. At a time when Wall St., the banking industry and even our own Congress can not be trusted, should we be allowing more of the insane behavior that put our country and the world in a recession?

Is this just legalized gambling?

Comments welcome.

Source – N.Y. Times

Problem Gamblers Provoked By 'Near Misses' To Gamble More

There should be an image here!The brains of problem gamblers react more intensely to “near misses” than casual gamblers, possibly spurring them on to play more, according to new research in The Journal of Neuroscience. The researchers found the brain region that responds to rewards by delivering a dose of the chemical dopamine was especially active in these individuals.

Studies have shown that pathological gambling is an addiction, similar in many ways to drug addiction. Now, U.K. researchers Luke Clark, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, and Henry Chase, PhD, of the University of Nottingham find that the degree to which a person’s brain responds to near misses may indicate the severity of addiction. In a given year, more than two million U.S. adults feel an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite negative consequences.

In this study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 20 gamblers. The participants’ gambling habits ranged from buying the occasional lottery ticket to compulsive sports betting.

During the experiment, volunteers used an onscreen slot machine with two spinning wheels of icons. When the two icons matched, the volunteer won about 75 cents, and the brain’s reward pathways became active. An icon mismatch was a loss. However, when the wheels stopped within one icon of a match, the outcome was considered a near miss. Clark and his team found that near misses activated the same brain pathways that wins did, even though no reward was given.

“These findings are exciting because they suggest that near-miss outcomes may elicit a dopamine response in the more severe gamblers, despite the fact that no actual reward is delivered,” Clark said. “If these bursts of dopamine are driving addictive behavior, this may help to explain why problem gamblers find it so difficult to quit.”

In particular, the authors detected strong responses in the midbrain, an area associated with addiction that is packed with dopamine-releasing brain cells. They also found the near misses were linked with increased activity in brain regions called the ventral striatum and the anterior insula, areas tied with reward and learning.

Studies have shown that people who play games of chance, such as slot machines or the lottery, often mistakenly believe some level of skill is required to win. This illusion of control often pushes players to continue. Matthew Roesch, PhD, an expert in reward and behavior at the University of Maryland College Park who was unaffiliated with the study, said the increased levels of dopamine during near misses may be critical in driving pathological gambling and supporting the misconception that games of chance involve any skill.

“Future work will be necessary to determine if this response is causal or if this abnormality is a preexisting trait of pathological gamblers — and whether or not it is common across addictions,” Roesch said.

Kat Snodgrass @ Society for Neuroscience

[Photo above by Eric Mesa / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:Compulsive Gambler]

eBay Gambles on Gambling

Next month the wife and I are heading to the bright lights of Las Vegas, so I found this story about eBay interesting. Seems that the auction giant has slot machines in the Rivera hotel in Las Vegas. To show that eBay only wants big gamblers, its machines are penny slots. :-)

According to this article:

Yup, the world’s favorite auction site is helping casinos separate customers from their cash. Why any major Web site would lend its name to slots, I’m not entirely sure. Money? Crossmarketing potential? Slot machines are so inherently cheesy that neither opportunity seems remotely worth it. With eBay, though, the implied message is particularly weird: “Hey, using eBay is like gambling, and gambling is like using eBay!” You’d think the very last thing it would want to be associated with is risky financial transactions that may involve the loss of all of one’s money with no recourse to get it back.

Of course, we’re talking about a penny slot machine, so it would be tough to lose one’s shirt. Actually, in the interest of research, I tried the eBay game at the Riviera hotel here–and even though I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, I won enough dough to pay for my dinner.

I agree with the author that eBay’s reasoning is somewhat suspect. It has brand recognition, so placing a bank of slots in Vegas is not going to increase awareness.

Why do you think that eBay has the slots?

Comments welcome.


Cheating At Online Gaming Sites – I Am Shocked!

I just got finished reading an article over at the NY Times concerning a particular web site which hosted a poker tournament, in which it is now concluded that one of the participants was cheating. To add insult to injury, the cheater was also a part owner of the gambling site. I was shocked!  :-)

The writer further states that there is a certain amount of ‘trust’ involved in gambling online and also that the people could be facing ‘prison terms’ for the alleged cheating. I don’t want to burst his bubble but from the comments posted it would appear that the site is outside of the US and as far as ‘trust’ goes,  one would suspect that the site wasn’t very trustworthy to begin with.

I’m not sure how many people gamble at online casinos, but isn’t doing so a gamble in itself? How does anyone really know what is going on behind the scenes? I think anyone who gambles on the Internet is taking a huge risk, especially if they are sending money to enter into a contest, no matter how trust worthy one may think it is.

I’m not criticizing the players for being naive, but I personally would not trust any online gambling site, no matter who was running it.

What about you? Would you gamble online?

Comments welcome.
Complete article here.

[tags]gambling, online, cheaters, tournament, money, prison term, trust,  [/tags]

Online Gambling Could Cost You Your Freedom

I spoke to an attorney today. Not because of anything that I’ve done mind you. Rather to make sure that I would not find myself in any sort of trouble for writing the following article…

Here in Washington State, the morons in Olympia have decided that residents of this great state have done their own thinking for entirely too long. Apparently they feel we need a break from making adult, common sense decisions on what to read and whether or not to act on it. Most importantly, they’ve decided to make anyone in this state that is caught “telling people how to place online bets” a felon.
Continue reading “Online Gambling Could Cost You Your Freedom”