Eyes on the Prize

For cartoon lovers, the idea of dollar signs replacing the eyes of Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny when they see something valuable is nothing new. But for researchers at UC San diego, they’ve uncovered new information that areas of the brain really do respond to objects of value.

The question posed by John Serences and team was “Could it be that we see things differently if they have paid off before?”

Serences, assistant professor of psychology and head of the Perception and Cognition Lab at UC San Diego, used a brain scanning technique that measures brain activity. The team of researchers offered subjects red and green targets that varied in value. Some targets were worth 10 cents, others were worth nothing. If the subject made the “right choices” he or she could earn up to $10.

The result? “Rewards affected information processing not just at a high level of cognitive function but right from the get-go,” said Serences.

The study is published in the Dec. 26 issue of the Cell Press Journal Neuron. You can read more about the research at UC San Diego’s website.

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