New Study Shows Biological Link with People Who Lack Motivation

Brain scientists have recently made a scientific discovery concerning apathy in healthy individuals. Apathy is seen in people who tend to carry an uncaring attitude along with a lack of interest in participating in various activities. For some, it is the disregard for life showing physical symptoms of indifference and insensitivity.



A group of scientists studying apathy from Oxford Univ. were unexpectedly greeted with strong biological evidence of a brain-based relationship in this area of study. There may be a strong connection that apathy is based on biology and not mere attitudes. This particular study was funded by a welcome trust; the scientists set out to see if there were any differences within the brain of those motivated versus those who were not. The age group used during this study were of the younger generation.

Physically Capable

Apathy is typically seen in individuals who have recently suffered from stroke. It is also commonly seen in patients with Alzheimer’s. According to Dr. M. Husain (Prof. of Neuro. Science), many of the patients are capable physically to continue to take care of their personal needs, yet they are highly unmotivated. These same individuals who are capable to physically continue do not have depression, which is often thought of as the demotivating factor.

Surprising Results

A group of forty young individuals were provided with a questionnaire to score their motivational habits. Each were then provided a game to participate in with differing levels of reward. Physical efforts were used to earn the rewards presented. Some rewards required increased amounts of physical effort, while others were easier to obtain.

During the game play, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to study the function of the brain. The surprising results seen was the “pre-motor” cortex of the brain differed in active response. The individuals who were more apathetic had an increased amount of activity in this area as compared to the more motivated individuals.

The pre-motor area of the cerebrum (brain) is where neuro activity takes place prior to movements of the body. The activity level in this area of the brain significantly increased when the non-motivated people decided to take part in the physical effort needed to gain the reward.

The True Meaning

The true meaning to this finding is the individual who has issues with being more motivated will have an increase in this area of the brain, for a reason. The reason seems to be it takes much more effort within the brain, for them to actual be involved in the physical activity. The brain has to work much harder to fulfill the same action of an individual who seems to have no issues with motivation.

What does this mean for the future?

This finding is the very first of its kind in seeing differences within the brain of these two groups of people (healthy motivated versus healthy apathetic). This does not give us a solution for all cases of indifference, but it does give us clues in that there are in fact differences involved biologically.

Dr. R. Stoyanova, Sr. Portf. Develop. in Neuro. & Ment. Health reminds us some people have motivation issues with fulfilling even easy goals like taking medicine, bathing, ect. This is often seen in many brain function disorders, but it can also vary among different groups within the populations. Some people seem to be naturally more motivated compared with others, but now this study shows us some very interesting details which need further investigation.

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