about the anticipation casino

Maggie Koerth-Baker was today blogging about an interesting popular science video in the field of neuroscience. In the video Stanfort professor Robert Sapolsky explains experiments with monkeys which investigate the role of anticipation and dopamine levels.

In the experiments monkeys got a signal upon which they had to perform some task which was then in the turn rewarded. Measurements showed that high levels of dopamine occurred not as some people may suspect after the reward, but before the task – right when the signal was sent out. The experimenters then lowered the rate of getting a reward. It turned out that the monkeys had even higher levels of dopamine when there was only a fifty percent chance of getting a reward. Sapolsky also mentioned that humans seem to take a unique role in this “social engineering” experiments. That is if I understand him right then humans may even keep on working entirely without reward, when tuned “correctly”.

Unfortunately the talk is very, very short and I couldnt find a longer version. There was also no information given on how important the “rewards” were to the monkeys. Likewise I would have liked to hear something about the rapidity of lowering the reward with respect to the levels. That is I had suspected in this blogpost that it may not only be the dopamine level per se which appears to be important but the rate of change (and eventually the form of the rate of change) of the dopamine level which may be important (as this may eventually even lead to inhibiting the activation of the nucleus acumbens). That is I could imagine that e.g. lowering the reward levels too much or too fast, or to change the levels too often may result in different results than the ones given in the video.

Some “real life social engineering occurences” may point into that direction.

2 Responses to “about the anticipation casino”

  1. misses manupenny Says:

    so this is how asian spam food looks like?

  2. Besserwisser Says:

    Nad wrote: Some “real life social engineering occurences” may point into that direction.”

    I think you may have misunderstood Sapolsky’s reference to social engineering.
    In the article Doubled-Edged Swords in the Biology of Conflict he wrote:

    Considerable advances have been made in understanding the biological roots of conflict, and such understanding requires a multidisciplinary approach, recognizing the relevance of neurobiological, endocrine, genetic, developmental, and evolutionary perspectives. With these insights comes the first hints of biological interventions that may mitigate violence. However, such interventions are typically double-edged swords, with the potential to foster conflict rather than lessen it. This review constitutes a cautionary note of being careful of what one wishes for.

    By the way, together with coauthors he also found out that glucocorticoids, like prednisolone, may have detrimental effects to the brain:

    We found that immobilization stress decreased neurogenesis and increased oligodendrogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the adult rat hippocampus and that injections of the rat glucocorticoid stress hormone corticosterone (cort) were sufficient to replicate this effect.

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