Sunday, May 26, 2013
Motivation and the Brain
The process by which an individual moves into action is motivation (Deckers, 2010). Motivated behaviors occur from his or her push and pull toward some end-state (Deckers, 2010). An individual’s motivations directly connect to his or her brain. Several structures of the brain and functions are associated with motivation. These same structures of the brain and functions play a role in an individual’s motivation for eating healthy in eating healthy as well as other brain structures. Extrinsic factors, such as social encouragement and positive reinforcement play a role in motivation as related to eating healthy. Intrinsic factors, such as evolutionary, and genetic factors, and the serotonin system play a role in motivation as related to eating healthy.
Structures of the Brain and Functions Associated with Motivation
Within the brain, the limbic system and its four main structures that are the limbic cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the septal area play a factor in motivation and emotions. The amygdala plays a role in the recognition of emotions, analyzing potential threats, and reaction of emotions, and helps motivate an individual to react accordingly. The hippocampus plays a role in motivation and emotions because it forms new memories, and connects senses and emotions to memories therefore it allows an individual to draw upon experiences of the past to choose the best option that guarantees survival (Cherry, 2013). The hypothalamus, which receives information from the endocrine, neural, and metabolic signals is another brain structure important in its regulation of motivated behaviors. These brain structures and their functions directly contribute to an individual’s motivation.
Brain Structures and Functions Associated with the Motivation for Eating Healthy
An individual’s motivation for eating healthy depends partially on the structures of the limbic system, which include as stated before the amygdala, the hypothalamus, the hippocampus, and the septal area. Limbic system structures are key factors to forming new memories and the regulation of emotions that play a factor in an individual’s motivation for eating healthy. Motivation directly connects to the limbic system therefore a key factor motivating an individual to maintain the act of eating healthy (Adcock, Thangavel, Whitﬁeld-Gabrieli, Knutson, and Gabrieli, 2006). The limbic system is also linked to the brain's prefrontal cortex and pleasure center, which involves feelings of pleasure experienced from eating (Cherry, 2013). Along with motivation, reward is also connected to the limbic system; therefore rewards will strengthen motivation by producing a sense of achievement when maintaining the act of eating healthy.
This also occurs with the release of dopamine into the hippocampus. The amygdala’s stimulation is a key factor in learning new habits and retaining those habits, such as eating healthy (Adcock, Thangavel, Whitﬁeld-Gabrieli, Knutson, and Gabrieli, 2006). The hypothalamus plays a role in food intake regulation, and the lateral hypothalamic area is the hunger or feeding center (Deckers, 2010). The hypothalamus also motivates behavior such as drinking and eating. The hippocampus functions as a negative feedback mechanism, which serves to inhibit lower structures activities involved in the control of nonspecific levels of activation and types of incentive motivation, such as hunger and thirst (Cherry, 2013). Dysfunction or injury to the hypothalamus relates to an individuals increased appetite Placidi, R., Chandler, P., Oswald, K., Maldonado, C., Wauford, P., & Boggiano, M. (2004).
The prefrontal cortex is another brain structure important in eating healthy because it exhibits control over impulsive behaviors and allows an individual to make sound decision relating to food choices. Other areas of the brain associated with motivation related to eating healthy are the dopamine circuits and the mesolimbic opioid; implicated in the abnormal increased appetite for food and for the consumption of food (Placidi, Chandler, Oswald, Maldonado, Wauford, & Boggiano, 2004). Several brain structures and functions contribute to an individual’s motivation for eating healthy.
Extrinsic Factors Motivating Eating Healthy
Social and Environmental Perceptions and Expectations
The perceptions and expectations of society and an individual’s environment affect one’s desire and ability to eat healthy and to maintain a healthy diet (Deckers, 2010). An individual’s perception of what is eating healthy can be help, hindered, or alter, depending on the varying views of society. An example of this would be the views of an individual’s social circle differing from his or her own views, which could either help, hindered, or alter eating habits. Psychological needs, such as social acceptance can also help, hindered, or alter an individual’s food choices also because one can either associate with other individuals with the same healthy food choices or become isolated because of his or her food choices (Deckers, 2010). Health care providers can also influence an individual’s food choice by relaying heath concerns based on one food choices.
Positive reinforcement from an individual’s social circle (family and friends) can help to account for predicting the likely outcome for one to create and maintain a new diet and healthy eating habits. When members of that individual’s social circle reinforce or make similar eating choices as related to eating healthy it becomes a positive reinforcement. Displayed bad eating habits in an individual’s social circle becomes less of a motivating factor in eating healthy. Motivation decrease or enhances by the perspectives of an individual’s social circle as related to eating healthy. When members of an individual’s social circle already eat healthy he or she may become motivated to behave in a similarly. Positive reinforcement is a strong factor in motivating an individual to eat healthy.
Intrinsic Factors Motivating Eating Healthy
Evolution is an intrinsic factor related to eating healthy. Hunger stimulates the tendency to eat what is available (Deckers, 2010). Eating is the primary purpose of supplying energy to an individual’s body for functioning. The hypothalamus regulates the evolutionary response of hunger and sends out a hunger signal whenever hunger occurs. This frequently can occur when starting a new diet in relation to an individual who is just starting to eat healthy. Also an individual’s dopamine system functions by promoting pleasure for activates such as eating (Deckers, 2010). Dopamine induces pleasure therefore motivating individuals toward behaviors that induce the release of dopamine, such as eating (Deckers, 2010). When an individual starts a new diet in relation to eating healthy it becomes a challenge for his or her dopamine system; temporarily modifying or hindering certain pleasurable sensations of eating.
Genetic factors play a role in an individual’s ability to eat healthy, such as allergies, diseases, illnesses, and certain predisposition. Some hereditary influences affect processes, such as nutrient partitioning and energy expenditure, which affects an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy diet (O'Rahilly, & Farooqi, 2008). Disordered eating is one hereditary factor that can have an influence on an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy diet. Genes also influence human obesity, which suggest that heritable differences in neurobehavioral traits influence habitual eating behavior such as satiety, hunger, and the hedonic effects of food (O'Rahilly, & Farooqi, 2008). Genetic factors strongly influence one’s ability to maintain a lifestyle of eating healthy.
An individual’s serotonin system also plays a role in eating healthy. If an individual has more serotonin in his or her synapses he or she will eat less and are more discerning when choosing foods Placidi, R., Chandler, P., Oswald, K., Maldonado, C., Wauford, P., & Boggiano, M. (2004). This may occur because of serotonin in an individual’s neural system, which can provide the sense of well-being without the need of food providing this sense Placidi, R., Chandler, P., Oswald, K., Maldonado, C., Wauford, P., & Boggiano, M. (2004). When serotonin in the synapse is at low un-normal levels depression can set in, and cause an individual to gain weight and have a decreased desire to eat healthy. Changes in an individual’s serotonin levels link directly to binge eating and dieting Placidi, R., Chandler, P., Oswald, K., Maldonado, C., Wauford, P., & Boggiano, M. (2004).
An individual’s brain structures and functions contribute to both motivation and the motivation to eat healthy. Therefore, an individual’s brain and nervous system affect how he or she processes motivating factors related to eating healthy. Extrinsic and intrinsic factors both play a role in motivation as related to eating healthy. Some of the extrinsic factors that contribute to the motivation of eating healthy are social, and environmental perceptions, and expectations, and positive reinforcement. Some of the intrinsic factors that contribute to the motivation of eating healthy are evolutionary factors, genetic factors, and serotonin system. Some motivating factors play more of an influential role than others in relation to an individual’s motivation, which are important factors as related to what pushes or pulls individuals into action.
Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Cherry, K. (2013). About.com: Psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/lindex/g/limbic-system.htm
Adcock, R.A., Thangavel, A., & Whitﬁeld-Gabrieli, S., Knutson, B., Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2006, May). Reward-Motivated Learning: Mesolimbic Activation Precedes Memory Formation. Neuron, 50(3), 507–517.
Placidi, R., Chandler, P., Oswald, K., Maldonado, C., Wauford, P., & Boggiano, M. (2004). Stress and hunger alter the anorectic efficacy of fluoxetine in binge-eating rats with a history of caloric restriction. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 36(3), 328-341.
O'Rahilly, S., & Farooqi, I. S. (2008, November). Human Obesity: A Heritable Neurobehavioral Disorder That Is Highly Sensitive to Environmental Conditions. Diabetes , 57(11), 2905–2910.