Would you please take care of your PFC

My apologies, in case I puzzled you, but we do love our acronyms here in Singapore.

I have mentioned the PFC previously under the “Framing Bias” but to expound further, the PFC is your Prefrontal Cortex; a brain region that lies behind your forehead and is part of your frontal lobe that curls like a cashew around the core of your brain.

Believe it or not, this PFC is the main (almost tempted to write sole) ‘culprit’ of your investing success, since this ‘CEO of the Brain’ has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior.

mindfulness

Moreover, the basic activity of this brain region is considered to be the orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.

That said, did you know that the entire frontal lobe is the most recent addition to the human brain?  And that it is also the slowest to mature but the first to deteriorate in old age?  Moreover, it is also a time machine that allows each of us to vacate the present and to imagine the future before it happens.

It is this critical piece of cerebral machinery that allows normal human adults not to become trapped in the moment but to be worried about what the future may bring.  And because of it, we can set a goaleven a very long-termed oneand imagine ourselves achieving it.

In other words, without it we would not have the urge to save for our retirement.  And that is quite an important message, don’t you agree?

Many authors have also indicated that there is an integral link between a person’s personality and the functions of the PFC.  In particular, the left PFC, which tends to be active when we are experiencing positive emotions.

As we both know, there is more to our investing brain than just intuition and emotion.  There’s a vital counterweight to the reflexive system: the reflective system, which largely resides in the PFC.

When we confront risk, our reflexive brainled by the amygdalafunctions much like a gas pedal, accelerating our emotions.  Fortunately, our reflective brain with the PFC in chargeacts similarly like a brake pedal, decelerating our emotions until we are calm enough to make a more objective decision.

mindfulnessHow?

As Richard Davidson’s study of Buddhist monks have shown, people who cultivate a sense of inner calm have greater activity in the left PFC.

The PFC is also one of the brain’s centers for generating happiness.  Happier people have a lot more activity in the left PFC and it is almost as if this area is a source of internal sunshine for the mind.

Additionally, people with greater activity in the left PFC produce more antibodies after a flu shot, suggesting that their immune systems are stronger.

Greater activity in this area is also associated with lower levels of stress hormones in the blood, helping to prevent us from overreacting to the ups and downs of daily life.

Finally age has its advantages, too.  Neuroscientists believe that older people have developed an automatic ability to counteract the reflexive response of the amygdala with the reflective powers of the PFC.  In effect, as we grow older, the more analytical parts of our brain step up to tamp down the responses that had generated all those negative feelings when we were younger and more excitable.

And that ability leaves more mental space for experiences we expect to be positive, the very things we want to focus our attention on, as time grows shorter.

Hence, growing old not only gives us the impulse to dwell on good things; it also gives us a kind of amnesia for the negative.

For those of you who are ‘watching their diets’ (although I believe watching one’s diet is not enough, one has to change one’s diet to achieve results): mindfulness and self control

Researchers from the University of Waterloo determined in a recent study that the primary brain region responsible for food cravings (salty high-calorie foods in particular) is known as the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex, or DLPFC.

Whether it’s chocolate or potato chips, your willpower has little say if the DLPFC isn’t working overtime, which may explain the root causes behind obesity and its related diseases.

The good news is that DLPFC activity isn’t muted; people can use certain strategies to boost its function.  Specifically, “interventions focused on enhancing DLPFC activitythrough aerobic exercise or other means may result in increased dietary self-control and subsequently improve disease management,” the team explained.

Other researches have suggested that an added dose of mindfulness may help to cut down food cravings.

A study found that visualizing food as a combination of shapes and colors, rather than as smells and tastes, helped to reduce cravings by up to 16%.  Additionally, imagining or shoving food as far away from you as possible also increased the effect.

Therefore, to be effective at controlling our urges and making sound decisions, the PFC needs to be looked after.

It can be trained, untrained, and retrained by actions, creating habits that lead to motivation.

How does one achieve that?

I will share 12 proven methods in my next blog post.

2 Comments

  1. This is fascinating reacersh. The last point noting that it’s possible to improve your self-control with more practice reminds us that children, and especially teenagers, whose PFC is still maturing (up until age 25) are not only inexperienced in this area, but have the disadvantage of immaturity of this part of the brain. We should endeavor to be understanding with teens, and mindful in raising our own children from a young age. Help them appreciate how important it is to take time to weigh important factors before making a decision. This, I feel, can help our children to be mature, responsible adults, sooner.

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