Dopamine, Wall Street and the Financial Meltdown


Neuroscientists have known for many years that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a major role in drug addiction.

More recently, scientists have discovered that dopamine also plays a big part in basic risk-taking behavior.

For example, Time wrote in 2007:

Everyone can learn from their mistakes — but some people have genes that may make it harder. That’s the message from German researchers, writing in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Science, who have shown how a common gene variant affects some people’s ability to respond to, and learn from, the negative repercussions of their actions…

Those men, it turns out, had a particular gene variant, or allele, that reduces the density of receptors for dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in motivation, pleasure and addiction — in certain areas of the brain…

It’s the first strong physiological evidence that the density of dopamine receptors may affect how people respond to negative inputs. Previous studies have established a strong link between a low density of dopamine receptors and addiction, obesity and compulsive gambling — conditions that suggest an impaired ability to learn from the consequences of bad decisions.


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