Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Last minute rethink

22.08.2007
Neuroscientists at UCL (University College London) and Ghent University have found the brain circuit involved in thinking twice and checking impulsive behaviour. The duo discovered that an area in the fronto-median cortex of the brain is activated when you begin to think ‘I’m not going to go through with this’ and stop yourself doing what you were about to do.

According to the study, published in the ‘Journal of Neuroscience’ today, this specific brain network is involved in self-control and checks and limits our desired actions.

Professor Patrick Haggard, UCL Institute of Neuroscience, said: “Many people recognise the ‘little voice inside the head’ that stops you from doing something, like pressing the send button on an angry email. We all have choices in our daily life, and we may decide not to go ahead with something we’ve planned. Quite often we have an immediate desire to perform an action, but reflecting on the wider consequences could, and sometimes should, make us cancel the action. Our study identifies the brain processes involved in that last-minute rethink about what we’re doing. These brain functions are important for human society in general: the ability to withhold an action prevents us all from being egoists, driven by our immediate desires.”

The decision you make on whether to act or not in a given situation is crucial to everyday life. Past studies have focussed on people’s ability to cancel a prepared action in response to an external signal, like a stop sign. In this study, for the first time, the participants always prepared the action, but then decided for themselves whether to go through with the action, or whether to withhold it at the last minute. This allowed the scientists to identify the brain basis of self-initiated inhibition of action.

Brain activity in the fronto-median cortex was monitored using fMRI brain-imaging while volunteers made up their minds when to push a button. Prior to the test participants were asked to change their minds occasionally by deciding against pushing the button at the last minute.

Participants were asked to indicate when they began to prepare the action by reporting the position of a clock hand. This indicated to the scientists when the inhibitory brain activity was likely to occur, on those occasions when the participants withheld the action. A small area in the anterior fronto-median cortex of the brain was active only when people inhibited an action they had previously prepared. When people prepared and actually went through with the action, this area was considerably less active.

“We wanted to identify the brain areas that show more activity when people prepare an action and then inhibit it, than when they prepare the same action and then actually make it” said Dr Marcel Brass, Ghent University.

The researchers were even able to predict to some degree how often individual volunteers inhibited actions from the brain activity in the fronto-median cortex. Those with strong activity in this area withheld actions frequently, while those with weak activity pressed the button more frequently, despite the instruction to sometimes withhold action.

Professor Haggard said: “This could be a factor in why some individuals are impulsive, while others are reluctant to act. Developments in brain imaging are bringing us ever closer to a scientific understanding of why a particular individual is the way they are. The ability to check, reconsider and withhold an action is essential given the complex social settings in which we live.”

Alex Brew | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

UCLA engineers use deep learning to reconstruct holograms and improve optical microscopy

22.11.2017 | Medical Engineering

Watching atoms move in hybrid perovskite crystals reveals clues to improving solar cells

22.11.2017 | Materials Sciences

New study points the way to therapy for rare cancer that targets the young

22.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>