Strengthening Your “Inhibitory Muscle”
Can we learn to be less impulsive? A new study suggests that we may be able to train an inhibitory mental “muscle” that will stop us from gambling, smoking, or overeating, writes Janice Wood on PsychCentral.
Subjects in the labs of researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Cardiff in the U.K. were given a gambling task, which was sometimes combined with an “inhibition task”: when a “stop” signal was presented, participants were forced to stop themselves from pressing a key. When forced to physically stop, participants slowed down and became more cautious in the amount of money they bet each time, the researchers report.
This suggests that becoming more cautious about simple movements reduces the tendency to make risky monetary decisions, the researchers hypothesize. “Our research shows that by training themselves to stop simple hand movements, people can also learn to control their decision-making processes to avoid placing risky bets,” said cognitive psychologist Dr. Frederick Verbruggen of the University of Exeter, lead researcher on the study.
Added Dr. Chris Chambers of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology: “These results suggest that our impulses are controlled by highly connected brain systems, reaching from the most basic motor actions to more complicated risky decisions. Our study shows that inhibition training reduces risk-taking during gambling in healthy volunteers, but it does not show that inhibition training reduces gambling addiction. More studies are now needed to discover whether training people to boost a low-level ‘inhibitory muscle’ could help treat addictions, but these initial findings are promising.” Read more here.
So interesting how body and mind are connected—motor movements seem so rudimentary, unconnected to higher thought processes, but in fact the two are intricately linked (as they also are, for example, in the gestures we make when we talk).