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Research suggests our capacity to increase productivity by learning to control the part of our brain most essential to motivation.

Jun 09
Using a new brain imaging strategy, researchers at Duke University shed light on our potential to become more motivated and more productive if we can learn to control the part of our brain,  ventral tegmental area (VTA), most essential to volition.
Scientists took a first step in understanding how to manipulate neurotransmitter circuits involved in volition using thoughts and imagery. 
 
In the study, participants were placed in an MRI scanner and asked to generate feelings of motivation -- using their own personal strategies -- during 20-second intervals. Participants weren't able to raise their VTA activity consistently on their own.  However, when the scientists provided participants with neurofeedback from the VTA, presented in the form of a fluctuating thermometer, participants were able to learn which strategies worked, and ultimately adopt more effective strategies.
 
"These methods show a direct route for manipulating brain networks centrally involved in healthy brain function and daily behavior," said the study's senior investigator R. Alison Adcock, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and associate director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience in the Duke University Institute for Brain Sciences.
      
     Jeff J. MacInnes, Kathryn C. Dickerson, Nan-kuei Chen, R. Alison Adcock. Cognitive Neurostimulation: Learning to Volitionally Sustain Ventral Tegmental Area Activation. Neuron, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.02.002

Full Article Link: http://goo.gl/wiRwsZ

Dr. Sam Ozersky, MD

Sam is Mensante's founder and CEO. He speaks and writes extensively about the critical relationship between mental health and the workplace.