Flipping the Switch

Imagine if there was a switch in your brain that could shut down your ability to control impulses and self-control. A recent study published in Science Advances has found evidence of just that. Since the temporoparietal junction of our brains allows us to view things from the perspectives of others, including the perspective of ourselves down the line. This is the portion of our brain http://www.fromtheleftfield.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/self-control-gif.gifthat allows us to regulate the impulse to better ourselves in the present at a cost to ourselves in the future. This function is tied to the decisions we make in the present, if we are not able to see how decisions will effect ourselves in the future it is unlikely we will make rational decisions.

The study was carried out by Alexander Soutschek and his team, in a controlled study. They attempted to interrupt the temporarparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation for 40 seconds followed by a 30 minute task. The control group received the same transcranial magnetic stimulation in a different area of the brain so as not to skew the results. Participants of both the control and test group were asked to choose between the instant gratification of a monetary reward the amount of which was uncertain or the longterm benefit of receiving a larger, guaranteed reward within three to eighteen months.  They were then asked to view a series of red dots from the perspective of an avatar. This series of questions tested not only the participants’ ability to make well-informed choices by taking on the perspective of others but also by taking on the perspectives of themselves down the line. The team was able to reject the null hypothesis when participants failed to use perspective to make good decisions.

92338-homer-simpson-brain-meme-u4qy I began reading the article I found it to be a really interesting discovery. However, I couldn’t figure out what good it could do for society as a whole until the conclusion. An article in Scientific American,  pointed out the potential benefits of this discovery on addiction.  If addicts are unable to view their lives in the future, having gotten clean, it is unlikely they will feel the compulsion to quit as they lack the motivation to do so.

If you are interested in learning more about the temporoparietal junction of the brain, as I was, check out this video, to find out how this area of the brain can effect moral decisions.

1 thought on “Flipping the Switch

  1. Michael David Kresovich

    Great article overall! I really enjoyed the statistics and self opinions of the topic. Not a climate change denier at all but I will admit to thinking very little of climate change and global warming. In terms of the tempetraure this week, it was bound to happen. In my opinion we do not have sufficient evidence that man made global warming is the cause, because we have actually been only recording for 50 years. The 1.8 degree raise (F) in almost 300 years shows that we must not be doing too much. The earth is in cooling and heating cycles, and I mean there have been ice ages. In my opinion we need to get larger sample size… remember correlation does not mean causation

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