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Medical Why is the mind motivated to do certain things?

  1. Oct 10, 2005 #1
    Why is the mind motivated to do certain things? What drives you to do an activity or to accomplish something? And can this be what causes boredom?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2005 #2


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    The limbic forebrain structures are thought to be important for motivational behaviors.

    Here's a link to a recent review article I've come across (I haven't read it yet...I'm just about to log off for the night, but wanted to give a quick answer to your question).


    This is the abstract from that article if you can't access it from where you are:

    Morgane PJ, Galler JR, Mokler DJ. A review of systems and networks of the limbic forebrain/limbic midbrain. Prog Neurobiol. 2005 Feb;75(2):143-60.
    PMID: 15784304
  4. Oct 11, 2005 #3
    that's a confusing article. from what i understand, the limbic system in the brain plays a major role in emotions. And that individual components of the forebrain together can have an impact?
  5. Oct 11, 2005 #4


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    The key limbic structure underlying motivated/appetitive/wanting behaviors is the dopamine circuit in lateral hypothalamus (LH), which runs from the ventral tegmental area to the nucleus accumbens. In rats, stimulating LH elicits vigorous searching and foraging behaviors. Human subjects who have had LH stimulation report feeling invigorated and say it feels as if something very interesting and exciting is happening/about to happen. LH has been found to be active when animals are in an exploratory or appetitive phase of behavior (e.g. as in searching for food), but this activity dies down once the animal succeeds in finding its goal and proceeds from an appetitive to a consummatory phase (e.g. once it's found what it's looking for and begins eating it). This system is also activated by highly addictive and 'energizing' drugs like cocaine and amphetamine. If the LH dopamine circuit is damaged, a "generalized behavioral inertia" (see below for ref, p.150) results. Overall, the dopaminergic LH circuit appears to underlie fundamental, generalized "wanting" drives in mammals. Note that this neural circuitry for "wanting" is distinct from neural circuitry for actually "liking" or deriving pleasure from something.

    The above information (and quotation) is a very brief summary of chapter 8, "SEEKING Systems and Anticipatory States of the Nervous System," of Jaak Panksepp's 1998 book Affective Neuroscience. For a more extensive review of historical and contemporary views on motivation in neuroscience, see

    Berridge, K. C. (2004). Motivation concepts in behavioral neuroscience. Physiol Behav, 81(2), 179-209.


    Last edited: Oct 12, 2005
  6. Oct 12, 2005 #5
    ahhhhh, that makes much more sense. thanks a bunch
  7. Oct 12, 2005 #6
    I think it's fascinating they've isolated a specific circuit that kicks in when a person would describe themself as feeling outright "motivated".

    Do you have any info on how they stimulated this specific circuit in people?
  8. Oct 12, 2005 #7
    That would be interesting to read, or even see
  9. Oct 12, 2005 #8
    Being interested in the purely mental aspects of motivation, I have read that motivation can be significantly increased by an acute awareness of "consequence"
  10. Oct 13, 2005 #9


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    Well, I don't think they come out and say that the feel "motivated," but they do apparently say they feel certain things that would tend to lend themselves to feeling or behaving as if motivated (feeling interested/excited/invigorated etc.)

    Here is what Panksepp says:
    Panksepp doesn't state the methods explicitly in the text, but judging by some references he includes in a nearby footnote, I believe the stimulation he refers to was some sort of direct electrical stimulation. The two references are

    Heath, R.G. (1963). Electrical self-stimulation of the brain in man. Am. J. Psychiat. 120:571-577.

    Quaade, F., Vaernat, K., & Larsson, S. (1974). Stereotaxic stimulation and electrocoagulation of the lateral hypothalamus in obese humans. Acta Neurochir. 30:111-117.

    He also mentions that certain drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can stimulate LH, while others such as certain antipsychotics can inhibit it (and inhibiting LH with such antipsychotics leads to a "sluggish depressive state.")
  11. Oct 13, 2005 #10
    Those studies are pretty old, and come from a time when neuroscientists were less restricted in what they could try on people, so it looks like he is talking about direct electrical stimulation of that LH circuit.
  12. Oct 14, 2005 #11


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    Actually, even though things were probably more lax back then, I don't think researchers could get away with doing an invasive brain study purely for their own research. Invasive studies in humans are typically only performed when the brain is exposed anyway for medical reasons, e.g. lesioning a piece of tissue to mitigate epileptic seizures.
  13. Oct 14, 2005 #12
    Exactly, and that was my thought about the 1963 study. I can't figure what the springboard for the 1970's study of obese people might have been, though.
  14. Oct 14, 2005 #13


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    Hmm...I'm curious about that too. If they were being treated for something else and just happened to be obese too, I'd want to know that as it might factor in to the interpretation. I wonder if I can get my paws onto a copy of that article (those older ones sometimes take a while to locate...not sure if my library will have that journal as I haven't been here long enough to explore the holdings yet).
  15. Nov 17, 2005 #14

    Mind = Desires, Fears & Priorities

    Desire = Wanting a person, an object, or an event. Evidence of a Desire: Observation of an individual approaching a desired person/object/event. Synonyms: Aim, aspiration, avidity, care (positive), comfort, concern (positive), craving, desideratum, distraction (positive), dream, drive, fancy, gloom, goal, grief, hankering, heartache, hope, hunger, intent, intention, inclination, infatuation, liking, longing, love, lust, motive, need, objective, passion, predilection, pretension, proclivity, propensity, purpose, striving, target, urge, want, wish, yearning, yen, zeal.

    Object = A thing comprised of matter and/or energy which retains its identity for a longer period of time than a related event. [NOTE: People = Objects] Synonyms: Article, commodity, entity, gizmo, item, something, substance.

    Examples: A woman named Jane, a ball, a man named Dick.

    Event = A relationship between or among people/objects; an event is most often a causal relationship between/among people/objects, wherein a person/object as a cause (A) causes the effect of a change of the inertial state of another person/object (from rest to motion or from motion to rest) or (B) creates the effect of new people/objects. Synonyms: Accident, adventure (v misadventure), affair, application of a force, calamity, circumstance, consequence, contigency, coincidence, disaster, episode, experience, function, happening, happenstance, incident, inevitability, instance, misadventure (v adventure), mishap, occurrence, phenomena, phenomenon, proceding, process, transaction.

    Causality = People/objects/events comprised of m/e who/which as causes (A) cause the effects of changes of the inertial states of another persons/objects or (B) create as effects new people/objects/events comprised of m/e.

    Example: Jane throws the ball to Dick; Jane is the cause of theeffect of the ball traveling through the air to Dick.

    Fear = Not-Wanting a person/object/event. Evidence of a Fear: Observation of an individual avoiding a feared person/object/event. Synonyms: Abhorrence, alarm, anguish, anxiety, apprehension, aversion, bewilderment, bother, burden, care (negative), concern (negative), confusion, consternation, constraint, despair, discomfort, disgust, dislike, distraction (negative), distress, doubt, dread, fixation, foreboding, fright, hate, hindrance, horror, impediment, load, misgiving, pain, phobia, pressure, qualm, repulsion, reservation, revulsion, scare, shock, sorrow, stress, suspicion, terror, trepidation, tribulation, trouble, unease, vexation, woe, worry.

    Desires and fears are interrelated by being opposites.

    Example: The interrelated opposite of the desire to live is the fear of dying.

    Because desires and fears are interrelated by being opposites, the term desire can be used to repsent desires and fears.

    Priority = The importance of each desire/fear compared to all other desires/fears. Evidence of a Priority: Observation of the time and/or effort an individual uses (A) to approach a desired person/object/event or (B) to avoid a feared person/object/event. [A priority is a desire to achieve a desire compared the the desires to achieve other desires and/or a desire to avoid a fear compared to the desire to avoid other fears.] Synonyms: Accent, advantage, antecedence, bearing, guideline, import, importance, influence, moment, order, ordering, placement, pre-eminance, precedence, preferment, prelation, prevenience, purport, rank, ranking, rating, relevance, seniority, significance, standard, standing, substance, value, weight.

    Example: Jane prefers playing ball with Dick to washing dishes.

    See the next Bob K post.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2005
  16. Nov 17, 2005 #15
    #2 Bob K Post Inre Motivation

    Desires/Fears/Priorities = (A) Physiological v (B) Psychological

    Physiological/Unlearned/Physical Desires are inherent in the body, genetic, and include the desire to survive, to eat food, to drink water, to find shelter, to find companionship, to enjoy sex, to reproduce, to protect one's family and communal group and the human species.

    Psychological/Learned/Mental Desires are not inherent in the body, nor genetic, but are learned in the choosing of choices for achieving physiological desires and avoiding physiological fears according to physiological priorities.

    Psychological Desires = (1) General v (2) Specific

    General Psychological Desire = Learned desire for a class of choices which would satisfy a physiological/unlearned desire.

    Specific Psychological Desire = Learned desire for specific choices which would satisfy a generic/general psychological/learned desire which would satisfy a physiological/unlearned desire.

    Physiological Desire: to drink a liguid.
    Choices: Water; Milk: White v Chcolate; Soda: Seven-Up

    See #3 Bob K Post Inre Motivation
  17. Nov 17, 2005 #16
    #3 Bob K Post Inre Motivation
    Feelings = Reactions to Realizations of Desires/Fears/Priorities

    Feelings develop in a sequence:

    1. Desire/Fear: _____ (?) [Wanting a Person/Object/Event/Not-Wanting a Person/Object/Event]
    2. Realization: _____ (?) [The Achievement/Non-Achievement of a Desire/Wanted or Desired Person/Object/Event or the Avoidance/Non-Avoidance of a Fear/Not-Wanted or Feared Person/Object/Event]
    3. Feeling: _____ (?) [The Reaction to the Realization of the Desire/Fear]

    Feelings = (1) Physiological v (2) Psychological

    Physiological Feelings = Sensations resulting from perceptions of the perceptual senses of sight/hearing/touch/smell/taste, including the proprioceptive sense, the position of the body in space, of people/objects/events who/which are comprised of matter/energy and who/which are realizations of physiological desires/fears/priorities.

    Physiological feelings/sensations are organ specific in quality and location in the body.

    Example: The pain of a stomachache is different from the pain of a toothache.
    Example: The pleasure of eating/drinking is different from the pleasure of sex.

    The Continuum of Physiological Feelings/Sensations

    Pain from Not Enough/Dissatisfaction v Pleasure from Enough/Satisfaction v Pain from Too Much/Dissatisfaction

    See #4 Bob K Post Inre Motivation
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2005
  18. Nov 17, 2005 #17
    #4 Bob K Post Inre Motivation

    Psychological Feelings = Emotions resulting from perceptions of realizations of psychological/unlearned/mental desires/fears/priorities.

    Four Emotions

    Psychological Feelings/Emotions: (1) Happiness v (2) Unhappiness = (2A) Sadness v (2B) Anger v (2C) Fear

    (1) Happiness = Reaction to a Realization which is an Achievement of a Desire/avoidance of a Fear.
    (2) Unhappiness = Reaction to a Realization which is a a Non-Achievement of a Desire/Non-Avoidance of a Fear:
    (2A) Sadness = Reaction to a Realization of a Fear of an Actual Loss, Accident, Injury, Illness, Genetic Disorder, or Physical/Verbal Attack.
    (2B) Anger = Reaction to a Realization of a Fear of a Violation of an Expectancy, a Promise, a Contract, a Law, or an Ethic.
    (2C) Fear = Reaction to a Realization of a Fear of a Threat of a Loss, Accident, Injury, Illness, Genetic Disorder, or Physical/Verbal Attack.

    Psychological Feelings/Emotions = Emotional Reactions [To Realizations of Psychological/Learned Desires/Fears/Priorities].

    Psychological Feelings are a combination of (A) Emotional Reactions and (B) Impulsive Reactions

    (1) Happiness:
    (1A) Emotional Reaction: Happiness!!!
    (1B) Impuslive Reaction: Celebrate!!!

    (2) Unhappiness:
    (2A) Sadness:
    (2A1) Emotional Reaction: Sadness!
    (2A2) Impulsive Reaction: Give up hope, become depressed, do not try to achieve a desire/avoid a fear!
    (2B) Anger:
    (2B1) Emotional Reaction: Anger!
    (2B2) Impulsive Reaction: To attack someone (possibly oneself) or something!
    (2C) Fear:
    (2C1) Emotional Reaction: Fear!
    (2C2) Impulsive Reaction: To run away from someone (possibly oneself) or something!

    An individual is motivated by his desires/fears/priorities to achieve his desires/avoid his fears according to his priorities.

    From the developmental sequence of feelings, ...

    1. Desire/Fear: _____ (?)
    2. Realization: _____ (?)
    3. Feeling: _____ (?)

    ... a feeling cannot develop without a preceding desire/fear, thus, the individual is ultimately motivated not by his feelings but by his desires/fears.

    Thus, the individual is motivated by his desires/fears/priorities and not his feelings.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2005
  19. Nov 17, 2005 #18
    Here comes ne of those shameful questions that could probably be answered with a google (my excuse: maybe hypnagogue or zoobyshoe can probably provide a superior synthesis and lead me a bit further).

    Does anyone know whether the lateral hypothalamus' dopaminergic interaction with the nucleus accumbens is inhibitory? It was my understanding that the N.A. was GABAergic, so inhibiting portions might have a disinhibiting effect on other parts of the brain - not to suggest that disinhibition == motivation in general, but that selective disinhibition may play a role. Which is a more valid oversimplification of apathy: overinhibition, or understimulation? (i.e. is there a lack of action potential promoting activity in the relevant regions, whether it be due to non-conducive structure or a deficit of stimulating neurotransmitters, or is there an overabundance of antagonistic activity, whether again due to structure or neurotransmitter production/availability?)

    Last edited: Nov 17, 2005
  20. Nov 18, 2005 #19
    You mentioned my name so I will reply: I have no idea. I've never looked into the neurology of apathy. Mostly I read about seizures. For what it's worth, I can tell you I once read a study in which a patient was described whose depression was linked to a chronic, random spike in his EEG that did not read on the surface, but was picked up when they took another EEG with implanted sphenoidal electrodes, whatever those are. This spiking was considered reason to try anti-convulsants, which the patient claimed cleared his depression up.

    This is consistant with the fact that anti-convulsants are now being given to people with affective disorders with alot of success. It suggests that all of them are symptomatic of this same kind of random spiking.

    Apathy is quite close to depression, is often cited as a symptom of depression, so it might be, in some cases, have the same cause.
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