A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who have damage to a part of the brain called the amygdala seem to lose the natural fear of losing money. They understand the value of money, and they have a normal, excited response to money as a reward…they just don’t worry about loss.
This research looked at only two people, but the examination was intensive. One interpretation is fascinating: that some people with brain injury that includes damage to the amygdala may be more inclined to gamble, and do so with abandon. One of the people in the study even sought out high-risk opportunities. (The BBC provides a clear analysis of the study.)
We know that people with brain injury can have dramatically different behavior from before the trauma–excess gambling and risk-taking among them. This study is another reminder of how brain injury devastates lives.