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    Losing Money Causes Plastic Changes in the Brain



    Summary: Financial losses evoke neuroplasticity alterations to the auditory cortex, a new study reports.

    Source: Scientific Reports.

    The sight of an envelope from the tax authority, a drop down in currency rate, or the sad face of your chief accountant can mean forthcoming financial troubles. How does the brain learn to acknowledge situations like this? Do these situations cause changes in the functioning of the brain? These questions were explored by cognitive neuroscientists at HSE University using a popular economic game – the monetary incentive delay task (MID Task).

    The MID Task requires that a person gives a quick response to a signal that signals an opportunity to receive a reward or avoid a loss. It helps a person to divide brain mechanisms reward processing into separate stages: expectation of reward and learning.

    A total of 29 subjects took part in the economic game in which sound signals predicted various kind of losses: the participants could lose between one and fifty-one monetary units in each round of the game. Participants had to quickly and correctly respond to audio signals to avoid loosing money.

    The study revealed that taking part in such a game leads to plastic changes in the auditory cortex of the brain, which begins to differentiate sounds that are associated with large financial losses. Moreover, scientists have reported an association of this plastic change of the brain with the ‘learning signal’ produced by the human brain during performance of the MID Task. Subjects with a more noticeable neural ‘learning signal’ showed stronger plastic changes in the nervous system.

    The result of the experiment suggests that life’s economic experience can lead to changes in the brain, which changes how external signals are perceived. Interestingly, the brain learns to recognize important economic signals automatically. Moreover, scientists have shown precisely how this rewiring of the brain takes place and have expressed the role of individual differences in brain learning systems using the neurotransmitter dopamine.

    Published: Scientific Reports.

    Contact: Aleksei Gorin, Higher School of Economics.

    Details: Image source Unsplash


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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