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The (neuro) science of getting and staying motivated



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There is no doubt that motivation is one of the most difficult and yet important factors in life. It’s the difference between success and failure, goal setting and aimlessness, well-being and dissatisfaction. And yet, why is it so difficult to be motivated? Or even if we do, to continue it?

This is the question that scientists led by Professor Carmen Sandi at EPFL and Dr. Gedi Luxury at the University of Edinburgh have sought answers. Previous studies have demonstrated two things: First, that people differ greatly in their ability to engage in motivated behavior and that motivational problems such as apathy are common in neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. Second, that an area of ​​the brain called the nucleus accumulates was a potential target for motivated behavior.

Sitting near the bottom of the brain, the nucleus accumbens has been the subject of much research, as studies have found it to be a major player in functions such as disgust, reward, reinforcement and motivation. To test and quantify motivation, the EPFL team designed what is known as a monetary incentive task. The idea is for participants to perform a task with increasing and measurable effort and to receive sums of money corresponding to their efforts. Basically, do more and pay more.

In this study, 43 men were scanned to measure accumulated metabolites in the nucleus through a sophisticated brain imaging technique called proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, or 1

H-MRS. This can specifically measure the abundance of neurochemicals in the brain, such as neurotransmitters and metabolites. Because of this, 1H-MRS is used in clinical settings to diagnose neurological disorders.






Illustration of the task of exercising force by hand. In the experiment, participants were first asked to squeeze control at their maximum strength or capacity. Then, while performing the task, in each trial, they had to squeeze it to a force threshold of 50% of their maximum voluntary contraction and hold on to that force for another 3 seconds, in order to gain the special monetary boost, qualified in each trial. The task consisted of 80 consecutive trials. Credit: João Rodrigues (EPFL)

Each participant was then asked to squeeze a device that measures strength – a dynamometer at a certain level of contraction, in order to gain either 0.2, 0.5, or a Swiss franc. This procedure was repeated for a number of 120 consecutive trials, which made performance in office quite demanding.

The idea of ​​the experiment was that the sums would push participants to decide whether to invest energy and perform the task accordingly in each trial. The scientists also performed the experiment under isolation and group conditions to investigate the impact of competition on performance.

After collecting the behavioral data, the researchers processed them through a computational model that evaluated the most appropriate parameters to be measured in relation to services, effort, and performance functions. This allowed them to question whether specific neurotransmitter levels predicted specific motivational functions.

The analysis found that the key to performance – and, by extension, motivation – lies within the ratio of the two neurotransmitters in the nucleus that accumulate: glutamine and glutamate. In particular, the ratio of glutamine to glutamate is related to our ability to maintain performance over a long period of time – as researchers call endurance.

Another finding was that competition seems to increase performance, even from the start of the task. This was especially the case for individuals with low glutamine-glutamate ratios in the nucleus.

“The findings provide new insights into the field of motivational neuroscience,” says Carmen Sandi. “They show that the balance between glutamine and glutamate can help predict specific components, motivating performance calculators. Our approach and data can also help us develop therapeutic strategies, including nutritional interventions, that address deficits in effort engagement.” targeting metabolism. ”


As social ranks can cause sensitivity to stress


More information:
Report Alina Strasser et al, the Glutamine-glutamate ratio in the nucleus predicts motivated performance based on human effort, Neuropsychopharmacology (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41386-020-0760-6

Provided by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne



citation: The science (neuro) of getting motivated and staying (2020, August 13) was taken on August 13, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-08-neuroscience.html

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