Friday, November 02, 2012

A selective magnetic zap can alter belief formation in our brains.

Dolan and collaborators continue the thread of work I mentioned first in a post last year, on our brain's rose colored glasses, how we are more likely to remember and recall pleasant than aversive stimuli. Here they show that this suppression of bad input can be blocked:

Humans form beliefs asymmetrically; we tend to discount bad news but embrace good news. This reduced impact of unfavorable information on belief updating may have important societal implications, including the generation of financial market bubbles, ill preparedness in the face of natural disasters, and overly aggressive medical decisions. Here, we selectively improved people’s tendency to incorporate bad news into their beliefs by disrupting the function of the left (but not right) inferior frontal gyrus using transcranial magnetic stimulation, thereby eliminating the engrained “good news/bad news effect.” Our results provide an instance of how selective disruption of regional human brain function paradoxically enhances the ability to incorporate unfavorable information into beliefs of vulnerability.

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