Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
When on a strict diet, it can be very hard to resist a bar of chocolate if it is right under your nose. Are you likely to eat it there and then? Or wait until the end of the week to intensify the satisfying experience? Whatever your answer, researchers now say they can explain the difference in people's ability to resist temptation.
According to researchers from the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris, activity in the hippocampus of the brain - an area of the brain involved in forming, storing and organizing memories - is crucial in making the decision to delay rewards.
Previous studies have analyzed human's temporal choices, with researchers conducting brain scans while participants are asked to make monetary choices, such as $10 now or $11 tomorrow.
"However, these paradigms miss an essential feature of the inter-temporal conflicts we have to face in everyday life," says Dr. Mathias Pessiglione of the Brain and Spine Institute and leader of the study.
"[...] immediate rewards can be perceived through our senses, whereas future rewards must be represented in our imagination."
To reach their findings, published in the journal PLOS Biology, the researchers conducted a series of experiments on volunteers using more natural rewards that people come across in everyday life. For example, participants were asked if they would like a beer today, or a bottle of champagne in a week's time.
The participants were presented with choices between immediate rewards that were presented as pictures, or future rewards that were presented as text, meaning participants had to "imagine" the long-term rewards.
The researchers found that the ability to select future rewards was linked to the amount of activity in the hippocampus.
They then conducted the same experiments on a group of patients with hippocampus damage as a result of Alzheimer's disease, alongside patients with behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) as a result of prefrontal cortex degeneration. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is known to implement behavioral control.
Results showed that those with bvFTD demonstrated high impulsiveness in all choices, but those with Alzheimer's disease showed more bias towards immediate rewards when long-term rewards had to be imagined.
Dr. Pessiglione says the reason for these results is because the hippocampus plays an important role in imagining future situations by building details that makes long-term rewards appear more attractive.
"Indeed, this structure has long been considered as essential for storing past episodes, but scientists have recently discovered that it is also involved in simulating future situations.
The consequence is that patients with hippocampus damage suffer not only from memory deficits, but also from a difficulty in imagining goals that would counter the attraction of immediate rewards and motivate their actions on the long run."
Medical News Today recently reported on a study detailing the potential for mind control after researchers discovered a specific brain activity that is triggered when people use numbers or quantitative terms in everyday conversation.
Written by Honor Whiteman
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
A Critical Role for the Hippocampus in the Valuation of Imagined Outcomes, Maël Lebreton, Maxime Bertoux, Claire Boutet, Stéphane Lehericy, Bruno Dubois, Philippe Fossati, Mathias Pessiglione, published in PLOS Biology, 22 October 2013. Open access
Visit our Neurology / Neuroscience category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Whiteman, Honor. "How our brain resists temptation in preference of 'future rewards'." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 27 Oct. 2013. Web.
7 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267848>
Whiteman, H. (2013, October 27). "How our brain resists temptation in preference of 'future rewards'." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267848.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.