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This your brain on no self-control
Date:6/18/2012

New pictures from the University of Iowa show what it looks like when a person runs out of patience and loses self-control.

A study by University of Iowa neuroscientist and neuro-marketing expert William Hedgcock confirms previous studies that show self-control is a finite commodity that is depleted by use. Once the pool has dried up, we're less likely to keep our cool the next time we're faced with a situation that requires self-control.

But Hedgcock's study is the first to actually show it happening in the brain using fMRI images that scan people as they perform self-control tasks. The images show the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)the part of the brain that recognizes a situation in which self-control is needed and says, "Heads up, there are multiple responses to this situation and some might not be good"fires with equal intensity throughout the task.

However, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)the part of the brain that manages self-control and says, "I really want to do the dumb thing, but I should overcome that impulse and do the smart thing"fires with less intensity after prior exertion of self-control.

He said that loss of activity in the DLPFC might be the person's self-control draining away. The stable activity in the ACC suggests people have no problem recognizing a temptation. Although they keep fighting, they have a harder and harder time not giving in.

Which would explain why someone who works very hard not to take seconds of lasagna at dinner winds up taking two pieces of cake at desert. The study could also modify previous thinking that considered self-control to be like a muscle. Hedgcock says his images seem to suggest that it's like a pool that can be drained by use then replenished through time in a lower conflict environment, away from temptations that require its use.

The researchers gathered their images by placing subjects in an MRI scanner and then had them perform two self-
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Contact: Tom Snee
tom-snee@uiowa.edu
319-384-0010
University of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert  

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