Friday, February 05, 2010

Our brain activity as desire collides with reason.

How do we resist impulsive desires?  Apparently our anteroventral prefrontal cortex tells our nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental  areas (involved in reward and pleasure)  to chill out. From Diekhof and Gruber:
Human decisions are guided by "desire" or "reason," which control actions oriented toward either proximal or long-term goals. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess how the human brain mediates the balance between proximal reward desiring and long-term goals, when actions promoting a superordinate goal preclude exploitation of an immediately available reward option. Consistent with the view that the reward system interacts with prefrontal circuits during action control, we found that behavior favoring the long-term goal, but counteracting immediate reward desiring, relied on a negative functional interaction of anteroventral prefrontal cortex (avPFC) with nucleus accumbens (Nacc) and ventral tegmental area. The degree of functional interaction between avPFC and Nacc further predicted behavioral success during pursuit of the distal goal, when confronted with a proximal reward option, and scaled with interindividual differences in trait impulsivity. These findings reveal how the human brain accomplishes voluntary action control guided by "reason," suggesting that inhibitory avPFC influences Nacc activity during actions requiring a restraint of immediate "desires."

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