Using brain imaging, a research team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) demonstrated the first linkage of human brain events to ideas from behavioral economics. The research, led by Hans Breiter, M.D., co-director of the Motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Center, revealed that monetary rewards tap into a generalized system in the human brain that also processes other categories of reward such as drugs and food. This study was also the first demonstration that a monetary reward in a gambling-like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine.

The findings were published in Neuron in 2001.

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