To Motivate Workers, Flash Dollar Sign, Brain Study Finds

Dollar sign makes brain concentrate harder on attaining perceived reward

If you've ever wondered how some people managed to stay focused on financial goals, look no further than the currency in your wallet. The flash of a dollar sign activates a segment of the brain that coordinates cognitive control and motivation, binding the activities of these two areas together to keep the mind on a perceived reward.

According to a study published August 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers Adam Savine and Todd Braver of Washington University in St. Louis have found that a certain spot in the brain, the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is found about two inches above the left eyebrow, responds strongly to the display of a dollar sign and kicks into action a network of eight other regions in the brain that work together on multitasking, as well as the previously mentioned two areas in the brain that handle challenge and the motivational cue (that dollar sign).

Savine, a doctoral candidate in psychology, and Braver, a Ph.D. and professor of psychology in arts and sciences, found that the promise of monetary reward activated the DLPFC region and in effect gave the brain a head start on preparing to perform well on an anticipated task.

"In this region (left DLPFC), you can actually see the unique neural signature of the brain activity related to the reward outcome," Savine said in a news release. "It predicts a reward outcome and it's preparatory, in an integrative sort of way. The left DLPFC is the only region we found that seems to be primarily engaged when subjects get the motivational cue beforehand, it's the region integrates that information with the task information and leads to the best task performance."

The researchers found that the network within the brain that processes rewards and the network that handles the ability to apply flexibility in shifting between mental goals worked together when the task involved is money.

Read more about the brain and its behavior toward money at AdvisorOne.com.

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