A Bolt of Electricity to Shock You Right Out of Bed and Into the Gym

We are all guilty of it: lounging around our dorms, snoozing in bed and indulging in our favorite snacks instead of using our time productively. Whenever there is homework to be done or a flabby stomach to tend to, we'd rather snuggle up in our PJs with a bowl of ice cream in hand. But recent studies suggest an electrical shock to a specific part in the brain will cease these actions of laziness and launch us right into a spree of willpower. Researchers claim, "the electrical stimulation is too invasive to transform slackers into marathoners" however it does raise questions as to whether electric shock can induce "resilience" or not (Szalavitz,TIME). 


Before diving deeper into the field of study, let's clarify exactly what "resilience" is. Defined by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary it is "the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens". Although most of us who are tucked into bed are not suffering from any severe trauma, the study still applies because the electrical shock is hypothesized to give one the ability to persevere.  

Recorded in Neuron, the study was originally conducted in order to locate areas that induce seizures in the brains of epileptic patients. By inserting electrodes, doctors were able to locate  specific regions in the brain responsible for patients' seizures and remove those regions during surgery. Within this process, doctors were able to study functions of the brain as well.

Researchers found areas of the brain with populations of brain cells held accountable for one's will to persevere. One area in particular, the anterior midcingulate cortex, was being tested when the patient began to feel a sense of determination. He stated, "It was more of a positive thing like.. push harder, push harder to try and get through this" (Szalavitz,TIME). Another patient reported to experience the same feeling when his anterior midcingulate cortex was being tested with electrodes, however he dealt with more negative side effects such as worry and irritability. Both results gave reason for scientists to question if the electrical stimulations had any correlation with the patient's emotional response.   

Scientists hypothesized electrical stimulation to certain areas of the brain, such as the anterior midcingulate, could induce the feeling of motivation. Because this area is impossible to reach without surgery, researchers have settled to strictly observe the brain patterns instead of manipulating them. Because of this lack of experimentation, the hypothesis is still in the process of being proven. For now, researchers wait to find the source to willpower. 

Although this study has not been officially done, I still find the scientists' reasoning and plan of action to be efficient. This case study can really prove to be significant if a specific part of the brain is tied to determination and can evoke it upon electric shock. The hypothesis is in the process of being proven, but it is clear that this experiment will study causation between electric stimulation and the anterior midcingulate cortex. Because this part of the brain is difficult to reach, I suggest exploring other options as to how the hypothesis can be tested. The only issue with this study is it could possibly break the code of ethics in science and may harm the patient. But as for now, I still sit lazily in my bed in need of some motivation. 

So scientists, please do get on that experiment. 

  1. Szalavitz, Maia, and Maia Szalavitz. "Need Some Will Power? You May Soon Be Able to Zap Your Brain to Get Some." Time. Time, 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.
  2. "Resilience." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.
  3. Hoffstaedter, F. "Result Filters." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.



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