Monday, April 14, 2008

Willpower waning? Blame your accumbens

The part of the blame responsible for some of the really silly, short-sighted things that people do is known as the nucleus accumbens:

Think of the nucleus accumbens as appetite central. It's part of the primitive brain, and it has evolved to light up and get us moving forward at the sight of almost any kind of reward. It doesn't matter whether it's a piece of chocolate cake, a BMW M5 sports car, Scarlett Johansson in a party dress or a stock that gets the kind of hype Enron used to enjoy.

What to do when faced with a potential impulsive act? The trick is to relax. Take a deep breath. Mellow out, dude:

In one MRI study reported at a recent conference, the nucleus accumbens predictably lighted up when test subjects saw a blue square, which they understood to represent a possible cash reward. But when Rutgers University neuroscientist Mauricio Delgado asked the subjects to think of something else on seeing a blue square -- the sky or sea, instead of the cash -- that reduced the sort of brain activity associated with risky decisions.

And so, Grasshopper, drinking relaxing, mellowness-inducing green tea can also help you resist the many temptations we all face out there.



"There he is, Officer. That's the guy who made me eat the whole box of Oreos."


—Mellow Monk


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