MON­KEYS TAUGHT TO GAM­BLE

Focus-Science and Technology - - DISCOVERIES -

What did they do?

Re­searchers at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity trained a pair of rhe­sus macaques to gam­ble against a com­puter in order to win drinks of wa­ter. They were al­lowed to choose be­tween two ma­chines: one set up with 20 per cent chance to win 10ml and one set up with an 80 per cent chance to win 3ml.

What did they find?

Both mon­keys con­sis­tently chose the ma­chine with the greater pay off de­spite the longer odds. Even when they were no longer thirsty they still went for the riskier bets, seem­ingly egged on by the ex­cite­ment of a big win. How­ever, when the team sup­pressed a re­gion of the mon­keys’ brains known as the sup­ple­men­tary eye field they were 40 per cent less likely to take risky bets.

Why did they do that?

As non-hu­man pri­mates and hu­mans share a sim­i­lar brain struc­ture, the re­searchers be­lieve the find­ings should ap­ply to also peo­ple and could po­ten­tially lead to treat­ments for com­pul­sive gam­blers.

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