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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sleep Loss and "Optimism Bias"

If you are short on sleep, don't gamble:

Short on sleep, brain optimistically favors long odds, by Katherine Harmon, Scientific American: ...[A] new study shows how just one night of missed sleep can make people more likely to chase big gains while risking even larger losses...
A team of Duke University researchers examined the brains of 29 healthy volunteers using functional MRI ... while the subjects performed a variety of gambling tasks. After a full night of sleep, participants behaved like most people tend to in the real world: guarding against financial loses and cautiously pursuing gains.
But when deprived of a night's sleep (kept awake in the lab from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.), the volunteers "moved from defending against losses to seeking increased gains," the researchers reported..., a condition the team describes as "an optimism bias." ...
Upon examining the fMRIs, the researchers noticed that when making financial decisions in the gambling games, sleep-deprived individuals had greater activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with fear, risk and decision-making... The sleep-deprived group also showed a drop in activity in the anterior insula, a region implicated in emotion and addiction...
The findings suggest that an all-night stint at the blackjack table or logged into an online poker game can be an extra gamble. ... These effects could also extend to areas where the stakes are even higher, such as the trading floor or the hospital, where workers often perform their duties when they are less than well rested. ...
And because these effects seem to run deeper than just apparent torpor, a shot of espresso—or even stronger stimulants—might not short-circuit the sleep-deprived brain's tendency toward unwarranted optimism...

Since we're on the topic, how do scientists know how much sleep people need?

    Posted by on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 07:29 PM in Economics, Science | Permalink  Comments (5)


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