Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, have identified two brain areas whose volume and functional connectivity are linked to an individual’s ability to control their actions. Procrastinators being on one point of the spectrum and the efficient minded being on the other.
An interesting insight regarding the complex mind of procrastinators, this study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to assess the volume of individual brain regions, along with the functional connectivity between them.
What areas of the brain are linked to action control?
The biopsychologists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum examined 264 women and men in an MRI scanner. All participants completed a survey measuring their own ability to execute action control.
Individuals with poor action control had a larger amygdala. Moreover, the functional connection between the amygdala and the so-called dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dorsal ACC) was less pronounced.
“These two areas of the brain had already been linked with action control in former studies.” says Erhan Genç from the Department of Biopsychology.
Measuring and deciding actions
The amygdala has the essential function of assessing different situations with regard to their respective outcomes and to warn us about potential negative consequences of particular actions within the neurology of the brain.
The dorsal ACC uses this information in order to select actions and/or situations that are to be put into practice. Moreover, by suppressing competing actions and emotions, it ensures that the selected action can be successfully completed.
The impairment between the amygdala and dorsal ACC could mean that the action control can no longer be successfully executed, according to the theory put forward by the researchers.
Genc continues: “Individuals with a higher amygdala volume may be more anxious about the negative consequences of an action – they tend to hesitate and put off things.”
“Due to a low functional connection between amygdala and dorsal ACC, this effect may be augmented, as interfering negative emotions and alternative actions might not be sufficiently regulated.”
Can the human mind be controlled to be more productive?
Future studies will have to show if the degree of action control for an individual can be modified through specific training or brain stimulation.
Caroline Schlüter, from the Department of Biopsychology, concluded: “Even though the differences regarding our ability to control our actions affect our private and professional success as well as our mental and physical health to a considerable degree, their neural foundations haven’t as yet been sufficiently studied.”