Brain 'lights up' when we receive expected rewards

Washington, Sept 26 (ANI): A new study has revealed that expecting a reward or punishment can affect brain activity in areas responsible for processing different senses, including sight or touch.

For example, research shows that these brain regions light up on brain scans when humans are expecting a treat. However, researchers know less about what happens when the reward is actually received-or an expected reward is denied.

To get a better grasp on how the brain behaves when people who are expecting a reward actually receive it, or conversely, are denied it, Tina Weis of Carl-von-Ossietzky University and her colleagues monitored the auditory cortex-the part of the brain that processes and interprets sounds- while volunteers solved a task in which they had a chance of winning 50 Euro cents with each round, signalled by a specific sound.

The study authors found that when the volunteers were expecting and finally received a reward, then their auditory cortex was activated. Similarly, there was an increase in brain activity in this area when the subjects weren't expecting a reward and didn't get one. There was no additional activity when they were expecting a reward and didn't get one.

These findings add to accumulating evidence that the auditory cortex performs a role beyond just processing sound. Rather, this area of the brain appears to be activated during other activities that require learning and thought, such as confirming expectations of receiving a reward.

The study is published in Journal of Neurophysiology. (ANI)

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