‘Bankruptcy hormone’ discovered in research
LONDON - Reuters
The study shows that a chemical messenger, or noradrenaline, is central to the response to losing money.Financial market traders and keen gamblers take note. Scientists have found that a chemical in the region of the brain involved in sensory and reward systems is crucial to whether people simply brush off the pain of financial losses.
Scientists say the study points the way to the possible development of drugs to treat problem gamblers and sheds light on what may have been going on in the brains of Wall Street and City of London traders as the 2008 financial crisis took hold.
Nineteen brains scanned
For the study, a team of researchers led by Hidehiko Takahashi of the Kyoto University graduate school of medicine in Japan, scanned the brains of 19 healthy men with positron emission tomography (PET) scans after they had completed a gambling task.
The experiment showed that a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, called norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, is central to the response to losing money.
Those with low levels of norepinephrine transporters had higher levels of the chemical in a crucial part of their brain - leading them to be less aroused by and less sensitive to the pain of losing money, the researchers found.
People with higher levels of transporters and therefore lower levels of norepinephrine or noradrenaline have what is known as “loss aversion,” where they have a more pronounced emotional response to losses compared to gains.
Loss aversion can vary widely between people, the researchers explained. While most people would only enter a two outcome gamble if it were possible to win more than they could lose, people with impaired decision making show reduced sensitivity to financial loss.