Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Force of habit: Stress hormones switch off areas of the brain for goal-directed behaviour

Date:
July 25, 2012
Source:
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum
Summary:
Cognition psychologists have discovered why stressed persons are more likely to lapse back into habits than to behave goal-directed. Neuroscientists have mimicked a stress situation in the body using drugs. They then examined the brain activity using functional MRI scanning. The researchers have now reported that the interaction of the stress hormones hydrocortisone and noradrenaline shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behavior. The brain regions responsible for habitual behavior remained unaffected.

Cognition psychologists at the Ruhr-Universitδt together with colleagues from the University Hospital Bergmannsheil (Prof. Dr. Martin Tegenthoff) have discovered why stressed persons are more likely to lapse back into habits than to behave goal-directed. The team of PD Dr. Lars Schwabe and Prof. Dr. Oliver Wolf from the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have mimicked a stress situation in the body using drugs. They then examined the brain activity using functional MRI scanning.

The researchers have now reported in the Journal of Neuroscience that the interaction of the stress hormones hydrocortisone and noradrenaline shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behaviour. The brain regions responsible for habitual behaviour remained unaffected.

Two stress hormones in use

In order to test the different stress hormones, the cognition psychologists used three substances -- a placebo, the stress hormone hydrocortisone and yohimbine, which ensures that the stress hormone noradrenaline stays active longer. Part of the volunteers received hydrocortisone alone or just yohimbine, others both substances. A fourth group were administered a placebo. Altogether, the data of 69 volunteers was included in the study.

Goal-directed behaviour and habits investigated in the experiment

In the experiment, all participants -- both male and female -- learned that they would receive cocoa or orange juice as a reward if they chose certain symbols on the computer. After this learning phase, volunteers were allowed to eat as many oranges or as much chocolate pudding as they liked. "That weakens the value of the reward," explained Schwabe. "Whoever eats chocolate pudding will lose the attraction to cocoa. Whoever is satiated with oranges, has less appetite for orange juice." In this context, goal-directed behaviour means: Whoever has previously eaten the chocolate pudding, chooses the symbols leading to cocoa reward less frequently. Whoever is satiated with oranges, selects less frequently the symbols associated with orange juice. Based on previous results, the scientists assumed that only the combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone attenuates goal-directed behaviour. They have now confirmed this hypothesis.

Combined effect of yohimbine and hydrocortisone

As expected, volunteers who took yohimbine and hydrocortisone did not behave goal-directed but according to habit. In other words, satiation with oranges or chocolate pudding had no effect. Persons who had taken a placebo or only one medication, on the other hand, behaved goal-directed and showed a satiating effect. The brain data revealed: The combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone reduced the activity in the forebrain -- in the so-called orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortex. These areas have been already previously associated with goal-directed behaviour. The brain regions which are important for habitual learning, on the other hand, were similarly active for all volunteers.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. Schwabe, M. Tegenthoff, O. Hφffken, O.Wolf. Simultaneous glucocorticoid and Noradrenergic activity disrupts the neural basis of goal-directed action in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience, 2012 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1304-12.2012

Cite This Page:

Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. "Force of habit: Stress hormones switch off areas of the brain for goal-directed behaviour." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120725090042.htm>.
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. (2012, July 25). Force of habit: Stress hormones switch off areas of the brain for goal-directed behaviour. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120725090042.htm
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. "Force of habit: Stress hormones switch off areas of the brain for goal-directed behaviour." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120725090042.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins