This tiny part of your brain influenced you to buy a Powerball ticket

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Record-Breaking Powerball Jackpot Hits New Milestone

Scientists might have singled out the one small portion of your brain that influenced your decision whether or not to buy that $800-million jackpot Powerball ticket, according to a new study published in the journal Neuron.

Researchers at the Stanford Neurosciences Institute used diffusion-weighted MRIs to study a tract of neurons that connects two different brain regions associated with our comprehension of risks and rewards—anterior insula and nucleus accumbens.

Read more: Powerball Fever Is Whipping Americans Into A Frenzy

"Activity in one brain region appears to indicate 'Uh oh, I might lose money,' but in another seems to indicate 'Oh yay, I could win something,'" Brian Knutson, associate professor of psychology and lead researcher, said in a Stanford news release on Thursday. "The balance between this 'uh oh' and 'oh yay' activity differs between people and can determine the gambling decisions we make."

Knutson and his team gave 37 subjects $10 to gamble in various games. The gamblers were then placed in an MRI chamber where they could see a roulette wheel as well as the odds of winning or losing on each spin. Each spin cost a different amount of money. As the subjects contemplated their bets, researchers studied their brain activities, paying particular attention to the tract of neurons that connects these two regions of the brain. In each of the participants, they found that those who had a thicker layer of fatty tissue surrounding that tract—indicating a stronger connection between the two regions—made more cautious gambling decisions.

Click through for photos of ticket buyers vying for the big prize:

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January 2016 massive Powerball jackpot
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This tiny part of your brain influenced you to buy a Powerball ticket
7-Eleven store clerk M. Faroqui celebrates after learning the store sold a winning Powerball ticket on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 in Chino Hills, Calif. One winning ticket was sold at the store located in suburban Los Angeles said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for California lottery. The identity of the winner is not yet known. (Will Lester/The Sun via AP)
7-Eleven store clerk M. Faroqui celebrates with customers after learning the store sold a winning Powerball ticket on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 in Chino Hills, Calif. One winning ticket was sold at the store located in suburban Los Angeles said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for California lottery. The identity of the winner is not yet known. (Will Lester/The Sun via AP)
Hundreds gather outside the 7-Eleven, after it was announced the winning Powerball ticket was sold at the store, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016 in Chino Hills, Calif. One winning ticket was sold at the store located in suburban Los Angeles said Alex Traverso, a spokesman for California lottery. The identity of the winner is not yet known. (Will Lester/The Sun via AP)
People line up to buy Powerball lottery tickets at Kavanagh Liquors, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in San Lorenzo, Calif. The Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing is at least $1.5 billion, the largest lottery jackpot in the world. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Laura Woodward displays the Powerball lottery tickets she bought for her office pool at Lichine's Liquor store, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing to be over $1 billion, the largest lottery jackpot in the world.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
People buy lottery tickets at the Primm Valley Casino Resorts Lotto Store just inside the California border Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, near Primm, Nev. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over $1 billion dollars for the next drawing on Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Patrons line up to buy Powerball lottery tickets outside the Primm Valley Casino Resorts Lotto Store just inside the California border Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, near Primm, Nev. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over 1 billion dollars for the next drawing on Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A sign shows the Powerball jackpot at a gas station Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Miami. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over $1 billion dollars for the next drawing on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Snow falls on a billboard advertising the record $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot in downtown Pittsburgh, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
This is a billboard advertising the record $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot in downtown Pittsburgh, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A tractor-trailer passes by a Kansas Lottery billboard in Topeka, Kan., Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over 1 billion dollars, and the drawing is still two days away. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
A sign advertising the Powerball lottery hangs on a store in New York, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. The jackpot is so big that billboards around the country have to advertise the prize as $999 million because they're not built to show billions. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A Powerball ticket is sold in a truck stop in Carlisle, Pa., Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over 1 billion dollars. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A customer shows his purchased Powerball tickets at a grocery store in Hialeah, Fla., Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. The Powerball jackpot has grown to over 1 billion dollars. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
A Pennsylvania lottery kiosk promotes the record $1.4 billion Powerball Jackpot in a mini-mart in Monroeville, Pa., Jan. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
People walk past a sign advertising the Powerball lottery in New York, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. The jackpot is so big that billboards around the country have to advertise the prize as $999 million because they're not built to show billions. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A billboard outside Waverly, Neb., displays the top Powerball prize as $999 million, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. The jackpot of over a billion dollars is so big that billboards around the country have to advertise the prize as $999 million because they're not built to show billions. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2016 file photo, Powerball tickets are shown in San Lorenzo, Calif. No ticket matched all six Powerball numbers following the drawing for a record jackpot of nearly $950 million, lottery officials said early Sunday, Jan. 10, boosting the expected payout for the next drawing to a whopping $1.3 billion. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Kimeron Ruszovan as she displays her Powerball quick picks purchased Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Powerball sales are at record numbers for Saturday nights drawing.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Sergio Ponce looks over his Powerball quick picks purchased Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Powerball sales are at record numbers for Saturday nights drawing.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Francisco Figueroa, second from right, buys Powerball lottery tickets at the Blue Bird Liquor store in Hawthorne, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. Lottery officials confirmed Friday that Saturday nightâs drawing will be for a record $800 million. The ever-increasing jackpot is a result of strong national sales ever since the jackpot was near $400 million just days ago. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Jay Suthar works the lottery machine at Pine Liquors in Fort Washington, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. With Powerball sales doubling previous records, the odds are growing that someone will win Saturdayâs $800 million jackpot, but if no one matches all the lottery numbers, next weekâs drawing is expected to soar past $1 billion. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A Powerball lottery card rests on a table, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Lottery officials say sales have been robust since no one won Wednesday's estimated $500 million jackpot. It will be the biggest U.S. jackpot ever, beyond the previous record of a $656 million Mega Millions prize won in 2012 by players in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A woman purchases a Powerball lottery ticket at a convenience store in Washington, DC, January 7, 2016. Lottery officials predict Saturday's jackpot will reach $700 million, the largest in history. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
A sign in the window of a liquor store shows the Powerball lottery jackpot at $700 million in Washington, DC, on January 7, 2016. The largest jackpot in lottery history, a whopping $700 million, is up for grabs in the United States on Saturday, driving feverish excitement among lotto players dreaming of becoming millionaires. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A billboard displays the estimated jackpot for the Powerball lottery, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Miami. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $500 million. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Jose Garrido shows his Powerball tickets, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, at a local grocery store in Hialeah, Fla. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $500 million. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
A clerk hands over a Powerball ticket to a customer, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, at a local grocery store in Hialeah, Fla. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $500 million. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 11: A Powerball lottery ticket is printed for a customer at a 7-Eleven store on February 11, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Ticket sales have caused the jackpot to grow $500 million, one of the largest in the game's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 11: Kirk Cook rings up a Powerball lottery ticket sale at a 7-Eleven store on February 11, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Ticket sales have caused the jackpot to grow $500 million, one of the largest in the game's history. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
DUNKIRK, MD - JANUARY 06: With the Jackpot now at 500 million, Sherrie Haines sells a Powerball ticket to Robert Sweeney at the BP gas station, January 6, 2015 in Dunkirk, Maryland. People are visitingÃlottery counters across the area with hopes of hitting it big in tonights Powerball drawing. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
DUNKIRK, MD - JANUARY 06: With the Jackpot now at 500 million, Gale Call (L) and Sherrie Haines (C) sell a Powerball ticket to Mike Nastasi (R) at the BP gas station, January 6, 2015 in Dunkirk, Maryland. People are visitingÃlottery counters across the area with hopes of hitting it big in tonights Powerball drawing. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A person purchase Powerball lottery tickets from a newsstand Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Philadelphia. Players will have a chance Wednesday night at the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A man purchases a Powerball lottery ticket at a liquor store in Washington, DC, January 4, 2016. Lottery officials predict the January 6 jackpot will reach $400 million, one of the largest in the game's history. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016 file photo, a sign shows the estimated Powerball jackpot in Spring, Texas. Players will have a chance Wednesday night at the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Powerball selection number selection slips are pictured at a store in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $450 million. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A billboards displays the current worth of a winning Powerball lottery ticket Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Springfield, Ill. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A sign advertising Powerball tickets is pictured next to a display of instant lottery tickets in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $450 million. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Chris Huntsman, of Tulsa, Okla., displays his Powerball ticket at a store in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $450 million. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Jermaine Emory Mallory fills out a Powerball number selection slip at a store in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $450 million. No one has won the big prize in two months and officials say the jackpot is now the sixth-largest ever in North America. Players will have a chance Wednesday night at the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
A billboard displays the estimated jackpot for the Powerball lottery in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Players will have a chance Wednesday night at the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
A convenience store employee holds a Powerball lottery ticket in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Multi-State Lottery Association officials say the Powerball jackpot is up to $450 million for Wednesday night's drawing. It's the largest lottery jackpot in nearly a year and the sixth-largest ever in North America. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Powerball play slips are stacked up in a store in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Players will have a chance Wednesday night at the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Jermaine Emory Mallory displays his Powerball ticket at a store in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. The estimated Powerball jackpot for Wednesday night has soared to $450 million. Players will have a chance Wednesday night at the biggest lottery prize in nearly a year. The last time Powerball had grown this large was in February 2015, when three winners split a $564.1 million prize. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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The results also suggested that people are most enticed by gambling opportunities that present a smaller chance of winning a lot of money combined with a small chance of losing a little money. There have been few examples in history that fit that description as closely as the current Powerball lottery, which costs $2 for a chance to win $800 million.

Knuston said he hopes the study will inspire research on curbing risky behavior through focusing on this area of the brain.

The post This Tiny Part Of Your Brain Influenced You To Buy A Powerball Ticket appeared first on Vocativ.

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