Neural Mechanisms of Self-Control

Grant Type
Grant Year
Institution Location
Institution Organization Name
Duke University
Investigators Name
Hayden, Benjamin Yost, PhD

Tourette syndrome is characterized by overwhelming urges to perform simple actions. Self-control can reduce tics – acutely, through conscious effort, and chronically, through cognitive/behavioral therapy and other forms of training. These facts suggest that the brain possesses the ability to control unwanted urges and raise the possibility that self-control could be improved by better therapies, drugs, or deep-brain stimulation. Much evidence suggests that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a key player in regulation of such impulses. I propose to record responses of single ACC neurons while rhesus monkeys perform a task that demands acute inhibition of the urge to shift gaze. I hypothesize that tonic enhancements in ACC firing rates will predict successful self-control. My first aim is to develop a behavioral paradigm that measures self-control in rhesus monkeys based on Walter Mishcel’s self-control paradigm; originally designed for use with young children. My second aim is to charac-terize the neural correlates of self-control in ACC. While monkeys perform this task, I will record ACC neural responses using extracellular electrodes. I will then analyze these responses to identify patterns of activity that predict upcoming failures and successes at self-control. By focusing on the cognitive processes by which the brain manages to regulate its own impulses, I hope to identify possible treatments for TS that are consonant with these processes. Benjamin Yost Hayden, Ph.D., Michael L. Platt, Ph.D. Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC Award: $13,855(Fellowship) Commentary: Although Tourette syndrome is described as a movement disorder, tics can be reduced using self-control strategies. Despite recent advances, we know very little about what happens in the brain when unwanted urges and tics are controlled. Imaging studies of the brain suggest that a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex may be involved. In this study I propose to examine nerve cell activity in this region of the brain in monkeys performing a self-control task. These studies may contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms by which deliberate effort reduces the symptoms of Tourette syndrome and could identify novel targets for future treatments. Tourette Association of America Inc. – Research Grant Award 2010-2011