The fi rst time I scanned my wife’s brain in an MRI machine, we had just started dating. I was a postdoctoral student in neuroeconomics at Stanford’s SPAN lab, studying the emotions underlying fi nancial risk taking, and we needed subjects. She had a good sense of humor about participating in the experiment, especially considering the long time she was asked to lie in the narrow MRI tube and her intense claustrophobia, but I was so excited about her participation in the experiment that I reassured her, “It’ll be OK.” She tried hard to suppress panic and put on a game face as she played our fi nancial task. Unfortunately her fear was
evident in the intense signal we picked up from the fear centers of her brain (and her trembling as she exited the scanner). We’re married now, and I think I’ve been forgiven for my emotional blindness.
While emotions like fear are useful in protecting us against danger, some times excessive emotion leads to poor decision making or outright panic. The role of emotion in driving both good and bad decisions is especially evident among investors. Neuroeconomics is a fi eld of study that attempts to isolate and understand the fundamental neurological and emotional drivers of economic decision-making. Based on the past 15 years of neuroeconomics research, it is evident that activity in emotional and information processing areas of the brain is integral to decision making.