Self Control and the Human Brain
August 23, 2007
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A specific part of your brain is in charge of helping you resist those tempting doughnuts. Scientists now know the area responsible for stopping a person from taking action is an entirely different part of the brain than the area associated with taking action. The discovery could have implications for certain psychiatric disorders where patients have a difficult time controlling impulses.
German researchers studied the brain activity of participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which shows real time activity in the brain when a person performs an activity. For this study, participants were asked to press a button. At times, they would decide not to press the button. Researchers report it was during those moments of self-control when activity was seen in the dorsal fronto-median cortex (dFMC). This area of the brain is the middle, right above the eyes.
The type of self-control known as "free won't" is when a person has the ability to not do something even though they had the intention to do it. "It is very important to identify the circuits that enable 'free won't' because of the many psychiatric disorders for which self-control problems figure prominently -- from attention deficit disorder to substance dependence and various personality disorders," Martha Farah, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania was quoted as saying.
Lead study author Marcel Brass, Ph.D., was quoted as saying, "The capacity to withhold an action that we have prepared but reconsidered is an important distinction between intelligent and impulsive behavior and also between humans and other animals."
SOURCE: The Journal of Neuroscience, 2007;27:9141-9151
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