Apply brain brakes to earn social respect!
Is there any in-built self-control device for people who don't know when and where to stop while talking to a colleague or chatting with a friend on social media? Well, there is - in your brain.
Neuroscientists at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston (UTHealth) and the University of California, San Diego, have successfully demonstrated a technique to enhance a form of self-control through a novel form of brain stimulation.
"Our daily life is full of occasions when one must inhibit responses. For example, one must stop speaking when it's inappropriate to the social context and stop oneself from reaching for extra candy," said Nitin Tandon, the study's senior author and associate professor in The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at the UTHealth Medical School.
How does it work?
Participants in the study were asked to perform a simple behavioural task that required the braking/slowing of action in the brain. In each participant, the researchers first identified the specific location for this brake in the pre-frontal region of the brain.
Next, they increased activity in this brain region using stimulation with brief and imperceptible electrical charges. This led to increased braking - a form of enhanced self-control.
"There is a circuit in the brain for inhibiting or braking responses," said Tandon, who is a neurosurgeon with the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-TMC. "We believe we are the first to show that we can enhance this braking system with brain stimulation."
The researchers were quick to point out that while their results are promising, they don't yet point to the ability to improve self-control in general.
In particular, this study does not show that direct electrical stimulation is a realistic option for treating human self-control disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome and borderline personality disorder.
The results of the study appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience.
(Posted on 16-12-2013)