Your brain structure could predict how many risks you take

The parietal cortex in the brain was already known to be important in processing language and sensory information. Now it seems that its size is linked to how likely you are to take risks, according to scientists from Yale University.

They asked a group of 28 people, men and women, to choose between a series of lotteries with different levels of risk. They also did MRI scans of the participants. They found that people with a bigger parietal cortex were happier with a higher level of risk. They repeated the test with second study group of 33 people, and found the same thing.

They’re not yet clear whether the size of the parietal cortex dictates someone’s penchant for risk taking or vice versa. The study also only involved young people, so testing a wider section of participants might yield different results.

But Ifat Levy, an assistant professor in comparative medicine and neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine, who led the research, said that her team has already found that older people take fewer risks, and that the parietal cortex becomes thinner as we age. Her team is now investigating whether this thinning is what actually causes people to become more risk averse. Levy says, ‘Based on our findings, we could, in principle, use millions of existing medical brains scans to assess risk attitudes in populations.’

And who knows? In future, maybe we’ll be treating gambling addiction by shrinking people’s parietal cortexes, or enlarging them to have the guts to make huge life changes. (That sounds safe, right?)

By Ab5602 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Diane Shipley