Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 9th 2013 Contents Next, the team hopes to
explore the neuronal net-
works connected to the
anterior midcingulate cortex
to better pinpoint the root
of the emotion they have described, Rangarajan
told LiveScience. (LiveScience.com)
A person s willingness
to push through hard
times and overcome obsta-
cles may come from a
small network of neurons
near the centre of the brain, according to a new
The network is located deep inside the front of
the brain, close to the meeting point of the right
and left hemispheres.
It lies within a region called the anterior mid-
cingulate cortex, which is known to be broadly
involved in emotion, pain and decision-making---
particularly goal-oriented decisions---although the
specifics of how it works remain unclear.
Now, researchers at Stanford University have
found this area of the brain seems to play an impor-
tant role in what researchers call a person s "will-
ingness to persevere," which means striving toward
a goal despite serious problems.
They came across this finding by accident, while
delivering electrical charges to the brains of two
people with epilepsy in an effort to locate the source
of their seizures.
"It wasn t that we started out looking for this,
it just so happened that both of these patients had
a similar reaction," study co-author Vinitha Ran-
garajan told LiveScience.
When the researchers inserted electrode probes
into the anterior midcingulate cortex of each patient,
and stimulated this region of their brains, the electric
charge did not produce seizures---indicating that
this region was healthy in both individuals.
But the charges did raise the patients heart rates
slightly and induce mild hot flashes, a reaction not
caused by stimulating other parts of the brain.
When asked to describe their emotions during
these electrical charges, both patients said they felt
anxiety and worry, but emphasised that the emo-
tions were not negative. Rather, they felt confident
and motivated to tackle the problem at hand.
For example, one patient reported feeling as if
he were in a car, heading toward a storm, and need-
ing to figure out how to escape, according to the
report published December 5 in the journal Neu-
Neither patient felt such emotions when stim-
ulated with a sham (a false shock without any volt-
age), the researchers said.
The researchers scanned the patients brains
using functioning magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI), which reveals blood flow and activity in
They found brain activity was heightened within
a network that connects the anterior midcingulate
cortex to other regions of the brain, suggesting that
this region may be the root of such emotion.
The new findings are limited because the
researchers looked at only two patients, said Amitai
Shenhav, a postdoctoral researcher of psychology
at Princeton University, who was not involved in
Although the findings are exciting, researchers
cannot draw definitive conclusions from them about
the function of this region of the brain, he said.
Shenhav said the emotion the patients described
in the study is likely controlled by an interaction
of brain regions that are connected to the anterior
The researchers said that the findings may help
determine the root of apathy or unwillingness to
persevere in people with certain psychological con-
ditions, such as dementia, and could potentially
help identify forms of medical or therapeutic treat-
ment for these conditions.
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, December 9, 2013
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all in the brain
The stimulated brains of patients A and B as imaged through the MRI.
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