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 Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

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: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>