PSY 355 Motivation and the Brain
PSY 355 Motivation and the Brain
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MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 1 *Please be sure to use this tutorial as a guide only. Do not plagiarize and do not resell as your own work. If you have any questions or problems with the tutorial please get a hold of me before leaving any negative feedback and I will resolve the issue. If you have trouble opening or viewing the files please contact me and I will fix the problem as soon as I can. Sometimes instructors change the syllabus so if the material does not match your syllabus please let me know. If I do not respond right away please be patient, I do have a full-time job and I try to check my messages once a day. Thanks and good luck!!! :-) Motivation and the Brain Name PSY 355 October 25, 2010 Instructor MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 2 Motivation and the Brain The brain plays a vital role in motivation. The complexity of the brain and its many responsibilities make it a primary control center for proper development and functioning of all individuals. Motivation is necessary in all aspects of life, whether it’s eating healthy, attempting to quit smoking or drinking, abstaining from drugs, or increasing physical activity. The brain is one of the main driving forces behind the motivation that is required for these behaviors to take place. When it comes to eating healthy it is often an internal struggle to maintain a high level of motivation to sustain a healthy diet. The limbic system, namely the hypothalamus, within the brain has been closely linked to motivating such behaviors (Carlson, 2007, p.88). There are also important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, within the brain that can influence the behavior of eating healthy. In addition to the influence of brain structures on motivation there are also extrinsic and intrinsic factors that can have an impact on one’s motivation to eat healthy. The combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors accompanied by various structures of the brain all work together to provide motivation for healthy eating. Healthy Eating All humans must eat to survive, but what they eat is an entirely different matter. Each individual is capable of choosing what, when, and how much they eat (in most cases). Hunger and satiety are the two main driving factors that lead to food consumption. Hunger determines when to eat, while satiety determines how much to eat. In a perfect world people would be able to maintain a constant healthy weight by simply listening to their own bodies, however it is not always quite this simple. The pleasure that one receives while consuming food can sometimes MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 3 motivate an individual to overeat, which can become an unhealthy habit. It is this same type of motivation that can also lead to healthy eating habits rather than unhealthy eating habits. Some individuals are more motivated by the health benefits of maintaining a healthy diet rather than by the pleasure that they receive by eating unhealthy foods. Obviously motivation is the key to understanding these behaviors, but where does this motivation come from? Brain Functions There are various parts of the brain that have been attributed to motivating behaviors such as healthy eating. This includes the limbic system, the hypothalamus, and also a variety of essential neurotransmitters. These elements of the brain are the key to motivating an individual to eat healthy. To fully understand how these parts of the brain affect motivation, it is important to delve into the underlying functions associated with these areas of the brain. Neurotransmitters and Hormones Neurotransmitters are chemicals found within the brain that help communicate vital messages throughout the body and the brain. There are a few neurotransmitters that are important to motivating a specific behavior, which includes healthy eating. These neurotransmitters often help trigger hunger or satiety, but they can also help motivate an individual to stay away from unhealthy foods. In addition to neurotransmitters, there is also supporting evidence of hormones such as cholecystokinin (CCK), leptin, and ghrelin, to provoke hunger. Serotonin is a monoaminergic neurotransmitter found within the brain. It helps relay messages in relation to moods, emotions, sleep, and appetite. “The sight, smell or expectation of MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 4 food stimulates serotonin release in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to regulate feeding and sleep. As eating begins, serotonin continues to rise, until it registers in the hypothalamus as the experience of satisfaction or satiety” (Hart, 1996, para.9). Serotonin can do three important things in relation to healthy eating: it can reduce the attraction generally unhealthy foods, it can reduce the amount of food consumed, and it can prevent cravings for fatty foods. Serotonin’s ability to control hunger and satiety has led to a possible treatment for people struggling with obesity (Pinel, 2007). Peptides are “short chains of amino acids that function as hormones and neurotransmitters” (Pinel, 2007, p.356). The gastrointestinal tract releases these peptides when food is ingested to signal satiety to the brain. These are called satiety peptides. Another type of peptide is said to increase hunger, and these peptides are referred to as hunger peptides. Hunger peptides are found in the hypothalamus, while satiety peptides are found in the gastrointestinal tract. “In one of the more recent discoveries, it seems that there is a protein called leptin which is released by fat cells when we overeat” (Boeree, 2009, para.6). Levels of leptin can be detected by the hypothalamus via the bloodstream, which can in turn cause a decrease in appetite. A possible mutation in the gene which produces leptin has been linked to overeating. This mutation seems to cause a miscommunication which results in the hypothalamus being unable to determine when enough food has been consumed. The discovery of leptin and its role in appetite control is fairly new so there are still many aspects of this particular protein that have yet to be discovered. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 5 Extrinsic and Intrinsic Factors Apart from the motivational factors attributed to the brain, there are also extrinsic and intrinsic factors that have an immense impact on an individual’s motivation to eat healthy. Extrinsic motivation is a result of external incentives while intrinsic motivation is a result of inherent and instinctual actions (Deckers, 2010). It is the combination of both extrinsic and intrinsic factors that is equally important to maintaining motivation towards eating healthy. Extrinsic Factors Extrinsic factors can include incentives such as money, good grades, social acceptance, and so on. When it comes to eating healthy the extrinsic factors play an extremely important role. The environment has a significant influence on the extrinsic factors that affect motivation. People often have a number of extrinsic motives for eating healthy which can often be attributed to environmental derivatives. For some people, weight loss is the extrinsic motivating factor behind healthy eating. Maintaining a healthy diet will result in a healthier body weight and better body image. Society and the environment in which an individual lives can have the power to alter one’s motivation towards eating. People are often surrounded by magazines and television shows which tend to portray the “ideal” image of perfection. As a result of these environmental influences people might become motivated to eat healthier to lose weight and fit into this stereotype. Others might eat healthy foods because it makes them feel better about themselves and increases their overall selfesteem. In some cases people must eat healthy to lower their cholesterol or keep diabetes in check. These factors would also be included in MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 6 sources of extrinsic motivation because they too produce incentives for maintaining healthy eating habits. Intrinsic Factors Intrinsic factors are highly important to all factors of motivation in life. Heredity is one of the main influential factors behind intrinsic motivation. Eating habits are often learned at an early age. Parents who do not have healthy eating habits will typically pass on these unhealthy habits to their children. What and how healthy one eats is a result of what one has learned from the past, but it does not necessarily determine how one will adapt over the years. In the past, the major reasons behind eating were accredited to basic survival. This factor has been a constant element in human survival and is passed down throughout the generations. It is an inherent element that motivates the behaviors of eating and it also has an influence on what and how much one chooses to eat. One example of how intrinsic motivation comes into play would be cases of compulsive overeating. Thompson (2010, para.1) states that, “Compulsive overeaters use food as a way to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and daily problems.” Eating patterns are formed during early childhood, which is typically when instances of compulsive overeating may begin to develop as a result of traumatic experiences or underlying psychological issues. The act of compulsive eating helps temporarily ease some of the emotional turmoil that may be occurring within the individual suffering from this disorder. Conclusion Healthy eating is a behavior that is influenced by various sources of motivation. The hypothalamus and certain neurotransmitters play a significant role in motivating an individual to MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 7 eat healthy. In addition to the brain, extrinsic and intrinsic factors are also imperative to maintaining proper motivation to eat healthy. The combination of these three sources can help elevate the levels of motivation that an individual has to maintain healthy eating habits. Each individual has their own unique sources of motivation, and for some people one source may be more dominant than others. While the obvious benefits of healthy eating seem to be universal, the individualized ideas and motivations behind healthy eating are often vast and unpredictable from one person to the next. MOTIVATION AND THE BRAIN | 8 References Boeree, G. (2009). General Psychology. The Emotional Nervous System. Retrieved October 25, 2010 from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/limbicsystem.html Carlson, N., R. (2007). Physiology of behavior. (9 . ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc. Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon Hart, C. (1996). Secrets of Serotonin. Retrieved October 25, 2010 from http://www.nasw.org/users/twoharts/serotonin.html Pinel, J. P. J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Thompson, C. (2010). Eating Disorders. Compulsive Overeating. Retrieved October 25, 2010 from http://www.mirrormirror.org/compulsive.htm
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