Summary:The ventral striatum plays a critical role in how we view shared or private natural resources, a new study reports.
from HSE University have shown how the brain works differently
depending on whether a subject is dealing with common (shared) or
private natural resources. The ventral striatum—the so-called pleasure
center—plays a significant role in this process.
The study has been published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
some parts of the ocean, commercial fish stocks have declined by 95%,
yet private fish farms are not being depleted. Why is it that people can
exhaust common natural resources without a second thought but are
concerned about their private property?
from HSE University and the University of Basel have worked to shed
light on the brain mechanisms behind this paradoxical disregard for the
To answer this question, the researchers combined neurobiological, economic and cognitive modeling approaches.
functional magnetic resonance imaging, they scanned the brains of 50
participants who were invited to play an economic game. The computer
game simulated fishing in either a private pond or a public lake. The
number of fish in the lake varied according to the size of the nets used
by the player.
could sell the fish they caught in exchange for a real cash reward. The
player also had to account for either the natural migration of fish (in
the private pond) or fish being caught by other fishermen (in the
researchers wanted to find out how our brains react to a reduction in
the number of fish in both the public and private spaces.
scans showed that an abrupt reduction in the number of fish in the lake
suppressed the activity of the ventral striatum, an area of the brain
that is sometimes called the brain’s “pleasure center” due to its high
content of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
the reduction of a natural resource is an unpleasant event for the
brain, and the activity of the pleasure center is severely suppressed.
However, a more in-depth analysis showed that our brain’s pleasure
center responds differently to reductions in private and public
participants fished in their own lake, neuronal activity in the
pleasure center was more likely to monitor the optimal number of fish in
the lake, thereby preserving the fish population. Therefore, when the
participants observed a sharp decrease in fish in their own lake during
the experiment, they fished less.
when the participants were fishing in a public lake, the same area of
their brain monitored quite different information—how many more fish
their rivals were catching. If the participants saw fish disappearing in
a public pond due to overfishing by their rivals, they fished even more
actively, quickly depleting the entire resource.
activity indicates that it is the comparison of one’s income with the
income of others—our envy—that intensifies the depletion of the public
1968, American ecologist Garrett Hardin described a typical Scottish
farming community in which a public pasture was being destroyed by
overuse. Every farmer benefited from having their cattle graze on public
land as often as possible, as this increased his or her own income.
Unfortunately, even today, people continue to harm such shared natural
results have shown that the way the brain works varies depending on
whether we are dealing with shared or private natural resources. It is
important to understand the subtle mechanisms behind people’s tendency
to overexploit natural resources. This will perhaps enable us to think
about measures to preserve them,” say the study authors.
About this social neuroscience research news
Author:Press Office Source:HSE Contact:Press Office – HSE Image:The image is in the public domain