Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LV 1 - 2021

Has Money Transformed Our Brains? A Glimpse into Stone-Age Neuroeconomics

Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde,
pp. 165-184
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Monetary exchanges supported by coins appeared less than 3000 years ago in Lydia. They don’t resort to an evolutionary temporal scale of human brain development as determined by long interaction with natural environments. Yet, we can hypothesize, in the light of several behavioral and brain-imaging experiments, that these eminently cultural artifacts, coins, have established specific neural connections with otherwise evolutionary shaped functional brain areas. This is documented by a seemingly fast and automatic processing of coin monetary validity in the posterior fusiform gyrus, a ventral stream area functionally dedicated to the automatic decoding of ecological items such as human faces and food. This type of evidence triggers a discussion on two accounts. It leads us to reconsider how shortterm functional neural adaptations to cultural environments predate long-term neurobiological evolution. Finally, potentially providing new insights on Sahlins’ hypotheses about the anthropological emergence of economic activities, it anchors our modern economic behavior and environment into a natural history.