Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Your genes affect your betting behavior"

A subject near and dear, some links below.
From the University of California at Berkeley:
Investors and gamblers take note: your betting decisions and strategy are determined, in part, by your genes.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, National University of Singapore and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have shown that betting decisions in a simple competitive game are influenced by the specific variants of dopamine-regulating genes in a person’s brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical released by brain cells to signal other brain cells – that is a key part of the brain’s reward and pleasure-seeking system. Dopamine deficiency leads to Parkinson’s disease, while disruption of the dopamine network is linked to numerous psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including schizophrenia, depression and dementia.

While previous studies have shown the important role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in social interactions, this is the first study tying these interactions to specific genes that govern dopamine functioning.

“This study shows that genes influence complex social behavior, in this case strategic behavior,” said study leader Ming Hsu, an assistant professor of marketing in UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. “We now have some clues about the neural mechanisms through which our genes affect behavior.”

The implications for business are potentially vast but unclear, Hsu said, though one possibility is training workforces to be more strategic. But the findings could significantly affect our understanding of diseases involving dopamine, such as schizophrenia, as well as disorders of social interaction, such as autism.
“When people talk about dopamine dysfunction, schizophrenia is one of the first diseases that come to mind,” Hsu said, noting that the disease involves a very complex pattern of social and decision making deficits. “To the degree that we can better understand ubiquitous social interactions in strategic settings, it may help us understand how to characterize and eventually treat the social deficits that are symptoms of diseases like schizophrenia.”

Hsu, UIUC graduate student Eric Set and their colleagues, including Richard P. Ebstein and Soo Hong Chew from the National University of Singapore, will publish their findings the week of June 16 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Two brain areas involved in competition
Hsu established two years ago that when people engage in competitive social interactions, such as betting games, they primarily call upon two areas of the brain: the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the executive part of the brain, and the striatum, which deals with motivation and is crucial for learning to acquire rewards. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans showed that people playing these games displayed intense activity in these areas.

“If you think of the brain as a computing machine, these are areas that take inputs, crank them through an algorithm, and translate them into behavioral outputs,” Hsu said. “What is really interesting about these areas is that both are innervated by neurons that use dopamine.”...MORE
HT: The Big Picture

As mentioned in 2012's "New research suggests link between genetics, Wall Street success":
We've been on the dopamine beat for a while:
Engineer -- Addicted to Day Trading -- Stole Nearly $750,000 Making False Securities Class-action Claims
Now that's obsessive.
Usually it's the little old lady bookkeeper embezzling from her employer of thirty years to cover her slot habit.
Understandable, in a dopaminergic sort of way.
She's triggering her reward pathways and going a little nuts from the neurotransmitters bathing her brain but she's not trying to rob the casino to keep playing the slot machine.

This guy, on the other hand is a) participating in a slower game, which in theory should trigger the dopamine cascades less frequently and b) he's ripping off Martha Stewart!?
Here's the headline story from the Contra Costa Times:
New research suggests link between genetics, Wall Street success
CLAREMONT - Stock traders whose genetic makeups can help them make healthy decisions about risk-taking may be better suited for a long career on Wall Street than others who may be predisposed to a "cowboy" way of doing business, new research suggests.

"I don't want the guy who is going to stay awake for four days and drink Red Bull and make trades across three markets in three time zones," Claremont Graduate University professor Paul Zak said....MORE 
Possibly also of interest:
Berlusconi Blames Stock Market Volatility On Cocaine (and a look at neurotransmitters)
"What Caffeine Actually Does to Your Brain"
Your Brain and Financial Bubbles
The Internet, Deflation and Depression
...Further, the newspapers likened the changes to those seen in cocaine abusers but went on to describe something quite different from my understanding of what blow does to the reward pathways, overexciting the dopamine cascade until the various D receptors no longer react to dopamine and eventually leading to anhedonia. The big A is often concurrent with and like anxiety, may even kindle for depression.
Don't worry, be happy.
See also "Pleasure Dissociative Orgasmic Disorder"