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Brain 'biomarker' to highlight risky financial behaviour

What might be considered to be the first stable 'biomarker' for financial risk-attitudes, grey matter volume of a region in the right posterior parietal cortex of the brain is significantly predictive of individual risk attitudes, says a study.

IANS| Updated: Sep 13, 2014, 14:28 PM IST
Brain 'biomarker' to highlight risky financial behaviour

Melbourne: What might be considered to be the first stable 'biomarker' for financial risk-attitudes, grey matter volume of a region in the right posterior parietal cortex of the brain is significantly predictive of individual risk attitudes, says a study.

"Individual risk attitudes are correlated with the grey matter volume in the posterior parietal cortex suggesting existence of an anatomical biomarker for financial risk-attitude," said co-researcher Agnieszka Tymula, an economist from the University of Sydney in Australia.

Using a whole-brain analysis, the researchers found that the grey matter volume of a region in the right posterior parietal cortex was significantly predictive of individual risk attitudes.

Men and women with higher grey matter volume in this region exhibited less risk aversion.

This means tolerance of risk could potentially be measured with the help of billions of existing brain scans, the study noted.

But Tymula has cautioned against making a causal link between brain structure and behaviour.

More research will be needed to establish whether structural changes in the brain lead to changes in risk attitude or whether that individual's risky choices alter his or her brain structure - or both.

"The findings fit nicely with our previous findings on risk attitude and ageing. In our Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2013 paper we found that as people age they become more risk averse," she said.

"From other work we know that cortex thins substantially as we age. It is possible that changes in risk attitude over lifespan are caused by thinning of the cortex," Tymula noted

The findings appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience.