Friday, April 13, 2007

Reward yourself!

Go on, do it now. Instant gratification guaranteed. Give a few dollars to the School of St Jude and see how good it makes you feel.

Two recent studies by psychologists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to visualize the brain's activity while people played computer games that enabled them to earn money for real-life charities.

One study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved about 20 people, each of whom had the potential to walk away with a pot of $128. They were also given a separate pool of funds, which they could choose to distribute to a variety of charities. A computer presented each charity to the subjects in series, and gave them the option to donate, to oppose donation, or to receive a payoff, adding money to the pot. Sometimes, the decision to donate or oppose was costly, calling for subjects to take money out of the pot.

It turned out that a similar pattern of brain activity was seen when subjects chose either to donate or take a payoff. Both types of decisions were associated with heightened activity in parts of the midbrain, a region deep in the brain that is known to be involved in primal desires (such as food and sex) and the satisfaction of them.

This result provides the first evidence that the "joy of giving" has an anatomical basis in the brain – surprisingly, one that is shared with selfish longings and rewards.

So, now we have the evidence – reward yourself by using the ChipIn tool on this website to support the School of St Jude as it educates bright children in one of the world’s poorest countries.

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