1 week, 4 days ago

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

Of course, in this study, procrastination can't be called procrastination, which is not academic. A total of 266 young people (mean age 23.85 years) who participated in the study were tested with questionnaires and scanned by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Among them, there is an indicator called AOD, which reflects the individual's "ability to start and maintain action according to their own will". 

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

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



 
 
 see here must be friends will raise their hands: amygdala I know! It's the part of the brain that controls 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 it is almost equated with the word "fear" in various films, films and literary works. 

In fact, the function of amygdala is far from an overview of "fear", and it is also widely involved in the advanced cognitive functions related to various emotional experiences. 

Don't worry! This work is not finished! 

Each functional area of the brain does not exist independently, but is inextricably linked with other brain regions, which jointly participate in and regulate a variety of behaviors and thoughts. The more frequently the two brain regions "act together," the more closely they are connected. 

The researchers further studied which brain regions were involved in the "joint action" with the amygdala, and found that the functional connectivity between a brain area called dACC and the amygdala was weakened in the brains of patients with procrastination! 

In other words, the more severe the procrastination, the weaker the functional connection between dACC and amygdala. 

Where did the dACC come from? Why haven't you heard of it? 


 
 
 dACC is the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which belongs to a part of prefrontal lobe and is a high-level brain area for emotional processing. 

What kind of advanced method? It receives information from the amygdala, processes it, and in turn regulates the activity of the amygdala, 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? After that, I will give you the instructions from the leader. 

What if the leaders can't control you? 

In the brains of procrastinators, this is the story:


 dACC is indeed a high-level leader, and its neural projection to the amygdala is believed to be involved in volitional behavior and self-control. However, when this neural connection is weakened for some reason, dACC becomes the master of the amygdala, and it expands and becomes complacent after a long time. 

However, the amygdala is not a leader's material after all, and can't do the work of dACC. As a result, before you start a work, higher anxiety and avoidance tendency will override your will to take action immediately. 

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


 
 
 so, when you are "hijacked" by the amygdala, the idea of "ah, play for a while, then do it later" keeps pouring out from the bottom of your heart, which easily defeats the idea of "start now". 

So, does this mean that procrastinators can confidently claim: 
 "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 fate, our brains can be changed 
. For example, it has been shown that eight weeks of meditation reduced the amygdala, increased the volume of the prefrontal cortex and functional connectivity with other brain regions. 

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

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 to explore the underlying causes of procrastination with neuroscience tools in a real sense. 


 from this study, we can't draw the conclusion that procrastination is innate, because correlation is only correlation, not causality. 


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

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