Some people lack self-control. A habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time is one example. But now, scientists have developed a way of improving a person's self-control through electrical brain stimulation. This is according to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) at Houston and the University of California, San Diego, say their findings could be useful for future treatments of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tourette's syndrome, among other self-control disorders.
To reach their findings, the investigators analyzed four study participants with epilepsy who were required to perform a series of behavioral tasks that involved the "braking" of brain activity.
Could you resist? Scientists say they have discovered a way to enhance a person's self-control through the use of electrical brain stimulation.
The researchers found that the area in which the brain-slowing activity occurred was in the prefrontal cortex of each participant.
Using brief electrical stimulation through electrodes implanted directly on the brain surface, a computer increased activity in the prefrontal cortex brain of each patient at the point when their behavioral brain activity slowed.
The researchers note that this was a double-blind study, so both the participants and investigators did not know when or where the electrical charges were triggered.
'Self-control enhanced' with stimulation of braking system
They found that the electrical stimulation in the prefrontal cortex of the brain enhanced the slowing of behavioral activity, leading to an enhanced form of self-control.
However, when electrical stimulation was administered outside the prefrontal cortex, the participants showed no change in behavior. The researchers say this suggests that the effects of electrical stimulation are specific to the prefrontal cortex.
Commenting on the findings, Nitin Tandon, of the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at the UTHealth Medical School and senior author of study, says:
"Our daily life is full of occasions when one must inhibit responses. For example, one must stop speaking when it's inappropriate to the social context and stop oneself from reaching for extra candy.
There is a circuit in the brain for inhibiting or braking responses. We believe we are the first to show that we can enhance this braking system with brain stimulation."
The investigators point out that although their findings are promising, they do not yet provide evidence that direct electrical stimulation is effective for treating self-control disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Tourette's syndrome.
But they say their proof-of-principle study may be useful one day when it comes to treating these types of disorders.
Medical News Today recently reported on a study detailing the potential for mind control, after scientists discovered that a brain region activated when people work out mathematic calculations is also activated when people say quantitative terms.