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Brain cells know which way you'll bet

Neural activity in nucleus accumbens foretells card-game decision making

By
2:38pm, February 27, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to tough financial decisions, people are often clueless. But some cash-savvy nerve cells deep in the brain know what to do. And these cells know the plan seconds before the person actually decides on a course of action, new research shows.

The findings, presented February 25 at the Computational and Systems Neuroscience meeting, may help scientists understand how people make difficult decisions.

Shaun Patel of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues enlisted eight people undergoing experimental therapy to alleviate severe depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder that involved implanting electrodes deep into the brain.

During surgery, the electrodes eavesdropped on the behavior of individual nerve cells in an otherwise unreachable area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. Other places in the brain feed lots of diverse signals to the nucleus accumbens: Information about a person’s emo

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