Study pinpoints part of brain that suppresses instinct

Dec 22, 2010

Research from York University is revealing which regions in the brain "fire up" when we suppress an automatic behaviour such as the urge to look at other people as we enter an elevator.

A York study, published recently in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, used fMRI () to track brain activity when study participants looked at an image of a facial expression with a word superimposed on it. Study participants processed the words faster than the . However, when the word did not match the image – for example, when the word "sad" was superimposed on an image of someone smiling − participants reacted less quickly to a request to read the word.

"The emotion in the word doesn't match the emotion in the facial expression, which creates a conflict," said Joseph DeSouza, assistant professor of psychology in York's Faculty of Health. "Our study showed − for the first time − an increase in signal from the left inferior frontal cortex when the study participant was confronted by this conflict between the word and the image and asked to respond to directions that went against their automatic instincts."

Previous research on the prefrontal cortex has found this region to be implicated in higher order cognitive functions including longterm planning, response suppression and response selection. This experiment, conducted by graduate student Shima Ovaysikia under DeSouza's supervision, allowed researchers to study inhibitory mechanisms for much more complex stimuli than have been studied in the past.

The inferior frontal cortex is located near the front left temple. People who have problems with inhibition, including stroke or schizophrenia patients, may have damage to this inferior zone, says DeSouza. As a result, when they see something that is inconsistent – such as the image of a smiling face with the word "sad" across it – they would be expected to take more time to react, because the part of their brains needed to process it has been damaged or destroyed.

Explore further: Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How the brain keeps emotions at bay

Sep 20, 2006

Daily life requires that people cope with distracting emotions--from the basketball player who must make a crucial shot amidst a screaming crowd, to a salesman under pressure delivering an important pitch to a client. Researchers ...

Adult and child brains perform tasks differently

May 11, 2005

Children activate different and more regions of their brains than adults when they perform word tasks, according to investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Reporting in the ...

Recommended for you

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

Apr 18, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Rapid whole-brain imaging with single cell resolution

Apr 17, 2014

A major challenge of systems biology is understanding how phenomena at the cellular scale correlate with activity at the organism level. A concerted effort has been made especially in the brain, as scientists are aiming to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...