Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Procrastinator's brains are different than those who get things done

Daydreaming is good. But if you're doing too much of it, you might have a totally different brain.

Young girl in Chicago classroom, Stanley Kubrick for LOOK Magazine, c/o Creative Commons

Daydreaming is important — studies have repeatedly said as much — but maybe you shouldn't daydream too much, as a recent study by researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum has come to the conclusion that — after looking at MRI scans of 264 individuals — the brains of doers differ from those of procrastinators.

Before we explain how they came to that conclusion, it's worth going over a few basic terms: the first is the amygdala, which are two almond-shaped clusters of neurons buried deep within the brain. The amygdala helps you process smell, store memory, rewards your brain with dopamine, and helps you “assess different situations with regard to their respective outcomes." If you're trying to recognize a smell — if you beat a video game level and pleasant graphics fill the screen — if you're unsure whether or not it will be worthwhile to go to a concert in the evening — all this goes through your amygdala. There's also the “dorsal anterior cingulate cortex." This section of the brain currently appears to have a role in blood pressure, heart rate, attention, the anticipation of reward, impulse control, emotion, and — more broadly, though this appears to still be an area of active research — decision-making.

It's helpful to have an understanding of these two sections of the brain when you read that “Individuals with poor action control had a larger amygdala" and that “the functional connection between the amygdala and the so-called dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dorsal ACC) was less pronounced." These results led Erhan Genç — a member of the research team at Ruhr-Universität Bochum — to hypothesize that “Individuals with a higher amygdala volume may be more anxious about the negative consequences of an action – they tend to hesitate and put off things."


The study has sparked a wide-ranging conversation on Reddit, with questions being raised as to neuroplasticity (with an excellent reply reminding us about just how contextual neuroplasticity is) to former procrastinators chiming in with their autobiographical two cents to teachers talking about how they might apply the gist of this research in the classroom. (“This is great supporting evidence as to why teaching kids to take risks in the classroom is so effective.")

The study works towards finding a neural base for some of these patterns — why, at the level of our hardware, things work in the way that they do — but — just as there was an active question as to the neural base of non-canonical uses of the nervous system — it's worth wondering what a certain neural base actually looks like here when we can see so many different things come from the same seeming place — how a larger than usual amygdala seems capable of translating itself into procrastination; into a larger than average number of unique responses to a Rorschach test, autism, or the fact that “after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, … MRI scans show that ... the amygdala appears to shrink."

From an outsider's perspective, it may feel a little like looking at birds and dinosaurs and knowing that each come from the same place.

But they do. And that's the next thing to be figured out.

Live tomorrow! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT tomorrow.

New hypothesis argues the universe simulates itself into existence

A physics paper proposes neither you nor the world around you are real.

Tetrahedrons representing the quasicrystalline spin network (QSN), the fundamental substructure of spacetime, according to emergence theory.

Credit: Quantum Gravity Institute
Surprising Science
  • A new hypothesis says the universe self-simulates itself in a "strange loop".
  • A paper from the Quantum Gravity Research institute proposes there is an underlying panconsciousness.
  • The work looks to unify insight from quantum mechanics with a non-materialistic perspective.
Keep reading Show less

How meditation can change your life and mind

Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.

Videos
  • There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
  • "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
  • "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
Keep reading Show less

Improving Olympic performance with asthma drugs?

A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.

Image source: sumroeng chinnapan/Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
  • A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
  • The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast