Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Brain's Battle for Short- vs. Long-term Rewards

The tug of war that seems to rage in our brains when weighing whether or not to cheat on our diets is real. Researchers at four universities have concluded that two areas of the brain appear to compete for control over behavior when a person tries to balance near-term rewards with long-term goals. A study conducted at Princeton University showed "decisions involving the possibility of immediate reward activated parts of the brain influenced heavily by neural systems associated with emotion. In contrast, all the decisions the students made -- whether short- or long-term -- activated brain systems that are associated with abstract reasoning." Researchers are now trying to answer the all-important question of what determines which side wins when the emotional cry for ice-cream battles the rational demand for collard greens.


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