It takes a lot of effort to be this lazy, study finds
It takes more effort for your brain to do less and care less, according to neurologists at Oxford University who found people who are perceived as lazy or apathetic have looser, less efficient neural connections than those who tend to be more focused or motivated.
According to Gizmodo, lead researcher Masud Husain, a professor of neurology and cognitive neuroscience at Oxford, and his colleagues used a questionnaire to divide study participants into two groups based on their level of motivation, then used MRI to monitor brain activity while the subjects participated in a decision-making game.
During the game, each of the 40 volunteers were presented with a series of offers, each of which had a different level of reward and physical effort required to win said reward. While those who were dubbed to be more apathetic were less likely to accept high-effort tasks, the MRI found that one part of their brain showed surprisingly high levels of neural activity.
The part of the brain in question is the pre-motor cortex, which plays a key role in taking action. It activates just before the regions of the brain responsible for controlling movement, and much to the authors' surprise, it was more active in the brains of apathetic people than it was in the brains of those deemed to be motivated.
It takes a lot of effort to not care about things
“We expected to see less activity because they were less likely to accept effortful choices but we found the opposite,” Husain, whose findings have been published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, noted in a statement. “We thought that this might be because their brain structure is less efficient, so it’s more of an effort for apathetic people to turn decisions into actions.”
Using the brain scanning techniques, he and his colleagues discovered that connections in the front part of an apathetic person’s brain are “less effective” than they are in motivated men and women. Typically, the brain is responsible for about 20 percent of an average person’s daily energy expenditure, but in apathetic people, more energy is needed to take action. In short, being lazy requires a surprising amount of effort in the pre-motor cortex.
“As far as we know, this is the first time that anyone has found a biological basis for apathy in healthy people. It doesn’t account for apathy in everyone but by giving us more information about the brain processes underlying normal motivation, it helps us understand better how we might find a treatment for those pathological conditions of extreme apathy,” said Husain.