1 week, 5 days ago

In May this year, a research team from Ruhr University Bochum in Germany published a study in the top international psychological journal Psychological Science (
 psychological science 
), which revealed that patients with 
 procrastination may actually have different structures and functions in the big brain. 

Of course, in this study, procrastination can't be called procrastination directly, which seems too academic. 266 young people (average age 23.85 years) were tested by questionnaire and scanned by fMRI. Among them, there is an indicator called AOD, which reflects an individual's ability to "start and maintain actions according to their own wishes". 

As for AOD, we don't explain it too much here, as long as we know that it is an indicator of the degree of procrastination: individuals with low AOD scores tend to hesitate or procrastinate without sufficient reasons when they need to initiate behaviors, which is what we usually call "procrastination". 

The results showed that AOD score was negatively correlated with the size of amygdala. In other words, patients with 
 procrastination have a larger amygdala. 



! It's the part of the brain that's in charge of fear! Does that mean that the essence of procrastination is fear? It sounds reasonable! 

Indeed, it is widely known for its core role in negative emotions, and almost equals the word "fear" in various films, TV programs and literary works. 

In fact, the function of amygdala is far from a general situation of "fear", it is also widely involved in various emotional experience related advanced cognitive functions. 

Don't worry! This work is not finished! 

Each functional area of the brain does not exist independently, but has a myriad of connections with other brain areas, participating in and regulating various behaviors and thoughts. The more frequently the two brain regions act together, the closer they are connected. 

The researchers further studied which brain regions and the amygdala together "common action" changed, and found that the functional connectivity between a brain region called dACC and the amygdala was weakened in the brain of patients with procrastination! 

In other words, the more serious the delay, the weaker the functional connection between dACC and amygdala. 

Where does this dACC come from? Why haven't you heard of it? 


. 

What kind of advanced method? It receives the information from the amygdala, processes it, and regulates the activity of the amygdala in turn, which is a typical form of "top-down" regulation of the nervous system. 


 in other words, this is a leading cadre. 


Is this feeling familiar? You hand over the good work materials to the leader. The leader will give you instructions after reading them. You can adjust the work according to the instructions. 

What if the leader can't control you? 

In the brain of procrastinators, this is the story:


 dACC is indeed a high-level leader. Its neural projection to the amygdala is believed to be involved in volitional behavior and self-control. When for some reasons this neural connection was weakened, the amygdala turned over to be the master, and it expanded and became complacent after a long time. 

However, the amygdala is not the material to be a leader. It can't do the work of dACC, which leads to higher anxiety and avoidance tendency before you start a work, which will overpower your will to take action immediately. 

This is the 
 "amygdala hijack" theory proposed by some cognitive scientists. 


. 

So, does this mean that patients with procrastination can frankly claim later: 
 "I procrastinate because I can't control myself! Hijacked by the amygdala! "? 


Of course not! It is important to remember that 
 physiological characteristics do not determine our destiny. Our brain can change 
. For example, eight weeks of meditation has been shown to reduce the volume of the amygdala, increase the volume of the prefrontal lobe, and increase functional connectivity to other brain regions. 

So if you think you're also hijacked by the amygdala, it's time to learn how to regulate your own emotional response. 

References:

Schlüter, C., Fraenz, C., Pinnow, M., Friedrich, P., Güntürkün, O., & Genç, E. (2018). The Structural and Functional Signature of Action Control. 
Psychological science
, 0956797618779380.

PS: This is the first 
 Article 
 using neuroscience tools to explore the causes behind procrastination (the author himself said). 


 from this study alone, we can't conclude that procrastination is a natural result, because correlation is only correlation, not cause and effect. 


Besides, the brain is plastic, and you don't know whether it's because you procrastinate that makes the brain this way, or whether it's the brain that causes you to procrastinate.

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