Dreams of money can seriously affect your thinking
Like the dollar signs in the eyes of cartoon characters, thoughts of money light up visual areas of the brain, a study has found. An international team, led by California University, has found that thoughts of money light up visual areas of the brain, including a part of visual cortex known as “V1” which represents basic features such as edge orientation and color.
Researchers have based their findings on an analysis of brain scans of a group of volunteers as they chose between red and green targets that varied in value at different times.
Selecting a target might yield ten cents or nothing. But those who made the right choices could earn up to $10. The findings revealed that rewards altered brain activation in many areas of the human visual system.
One of these was “V1”, the first visually responsive region of the brain, the Daily Telegraph reported. Activation was also seen in the frontal and parietal regions of the brain which have previously been implicated in anticipating and tracking rewards.
Lead researcher John Serences said: “When a target has been valuable in the past – if selecting it had paid off with money – the visual system represented it more strongly. Rewards affected information processing, not just at a high level of cognitive function but right from the get-go. “It raises the intriguing possibility that we see things we value more clearly – much like the way the brain responds to a bright object versus a dimly-lit one.”
In an unusual finding, the researchers found that the brains of the subjects seemed to remember which targets were more rewarding even if the subjects themselves actually forgot.
Plenty of factors go into decisions about things that we think are rewarding and the instant judgments of our brains may play just one part in a wider picture. For example, Serences said, our choices about eating ice cream or vegetables may depend on things like whether we’re on a diet.
But the findings suggest that there may be an ingrained bias in the human brain, he said. “Right from the start, you might be predisposed to the ice cream, because your brain is more predisposed to it than the vegetables.”
Via The Times