Monday, May 14, 2007

Is It Bad To Gamble When Sleep Deprived?

In the annals of the incredibly obvious, researchers have shown that "late-night gambling is a risky game":

Obviousman by Wiley Miller
Blame boneheaded bets on your tired brain
Scientists pinpoint why late-night gamblers lose big time

By Linda Carroll

. . .

Scientists set up experiments in which people have a choice between a high-risk gamble with the opportunity for a big payout and a low-risk option that offers the prospect of more moderate gain. They compared the decisions made by well-rested gamblers and those who’ve been up for hours on end.

Sure enough, the studies showed that when sleep is curtailed, people are drawn to risky, but high-paying, options.
Was it really that incredibly obvious? No. That is not what the study by Venkatraman et al. (2007) showed at all:
There was no significant difference in risk preference between the 2 states. Subjects earned an average bonus of $35.50 (SD = $6.71) for the rested-wakefulness session and $35.70 (SD = $10.08) for the sleep-deprivation session.
To be fair, though, the authors did brain scans on these sleepy gamblers to assess changes in gain/loss sensitivity with sleep deprivation, and other media outlets were a little less tabloid-ish with their headlines (and more accurate in their reporting):
Sleep Deprivation Can Threaten Competent Decision-making

. . .

The authors found that the nucleus accumbens, an area in the brain involved with the anticipation of reward, becomes selectively more active when high risk-high payoff choices were made under conditions of sleep deprivation. Further, the number of high risk decisions did not increase with sleep deprivation, but the expectation of being rewarded for making the high risk gamble was elevated. Allied to this finding was the observation that there was an attenuated response to losses in the insula, a part of the brain involved with evaluating the emotional significance of an event.
Stay tuned for more on the nucleus accumbens!


Vinod Venkatraman, YM Lisa Chuah, Scott A Huettel, Michael WL Chee (2007). Sleep Deprivation Elevates Expectation of Gains and Attenuates Response to Losses Following Risky Decisions. Sleep 30:603-609

Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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At May 14, 2007 6:03 PM, Blogger turbospinecho said...

So very true. The later I stay up gambling the more I loose. Great story.


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