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The science (neurology) of receiving and maintaining motivation



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There’s no doubt that motivation is one of the most difficult and most important factors in life. It’s the difference between success and failure, goal setting and no purpose, happiness and unhappiness. However, why is it so difficult to get motivated? Or even if we do, to maintain it?

That is the question led by scientists Professor Carmen Sandi at EPFL and Dr. Gedi Luksys at the University of Edinburgh sought to answer. Previous studies have demonstrated two things: First, people differ greatly in their ability to engage in motivated behaviors and in motivational problems such as lethargy that is common in degenerative disorders. nervous and psychiatric. Second, an area of ​​the brain called the nucleus is a target for motivated behavior.

Located near the bottom of the brain, the nucleus is the subject of many studies, as studies have found it to play a key role in functions such as aversion, reward, reinforcement, and motivation. To test and quantify motivation, the EPFL team designed what is called a monetary incentive mandate. The idea is that participants perform a task with increasing and measurable effort and receive a corresponding amount of their effort. Basically, do more and get paid more.

In this study, 43 men were scanned to measure metabolites in the acbens nucleus through a complex 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. Therefore, 1H-MRS is used in clinical settings to identify neurological disorders.






The illustration of the forceful task of the handle. In the test, the participants were first asked to squeeze the handle at their maximum force or power. Then, during the mission, in each test, they had to force it up to a force threshold equal to 50% of their maximum voluntary contraction and stay at that force for another 3 seconds to gain motion. Specific monetary engine is specified for each test. The mission includes 80 consecutive trials. Credit: João Rodrigues (EPFL)

Each participant was then asked to squeeze a dynamometer – a dynamometer to a certain degree of contraction to earn 0.2, 0.5, or a Swiss franc. This procedure was repeated in 120 consecutive tests, making task execution quite rigorous.

The idea of ​​the experiment is that the total amount will motivate participants to decide if they will invest energy and perform the corresponding task in each trial. The scientists also conducted experiments in isolation and group conditions to investigate the effects of competition on performance.

Once they gathered behavioral data, the researchers processed it through a computational model that estimates the most appropriate parameters to be measured in relation to utility functions, effort, and performance. . This allows them to question whether specific neurotransmitter levels predict specific motor functions.

Analysis shows that the key to performance – and more broadly motivation – lies in the ratios of two neurotransmitters in the nucleus of acbens: glutamine and glutamate. Specifically, the ratio of glutamine to glutamate is linked to our ability to sustain performance over the long term – what the researchers call endurance.

Another discovery is that competition seems to drive performance, even at the outset of missions. This is especially the case for people with a low glutamine-to-glutamate ratio in the nucleus of acbens.

“These findings provide new insights into the field of neurodynamic science,” said Carmen Sandi. “They point out that the balance between glutamine and glutamate can help predict specific ingredients, the calculation of performance is driven. Our approach and data can also help us evolve.” Therapeutic strategies, including nutritional interventions, address deficiencies in effort by targeting metabolic. ”


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More information:
Alina Strasser et al., The Glutamine-to-glutamate ratio in the kernel predicts effort-based performance in humans, Neuroscience (Year 2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41386-020-0760-6

Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne



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