20 - What Motivates Youدوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 20
20 - What Motivates You
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It is hard to learn
when you’re not into it.
But if it’s something you’re
really interested in,
learning is easy.
Why is that?
Most of the neurons in your cortex carry
information about what is happening
around you and what you’re doing.
Your brain also has a set of diffusely
projecting systems of neuromodulators that carry
information not about the content of
an experience but its importance
and value to your future.
Neuromodulators are chemicals that influence
how a neuron responds to other neurons,
and today we will discuss three of them;
acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin.
Acetylcholine neurons form
neuromodulatory connections to
the cortex that are particularly important for
focused learning when
you are paying close attention.
These acetylcholine neurons
project widely and activate
circuits that control synaptic plasticity
leading to new long term memory.
Neuromodulators also have a
profound impact on your unconscious mind.
One of the great brain discoveries
in my lifetime has been that
our motivation is controlled by a
particular chemical substance called dopamine,
which is found in a small set of neurons
in our brain stem shown here in orange.
These dopamine neurons are part of a large
brain system that controls reward learning,
and in particular, in the
basal ganglia which is located in
the green region above the dopamine neurons
and below the cortex at the top of the brain.
Dopamine is released from these neurons
when we receive an unexpected reward.
Dopamine signals project widely and
have a very powerful effect on learning,
and this is something that
also affects decision-making,
and even the value of sensory inputs.
Dopamine is in the business of predicting
future rewards and
not just the immediate reward.
This can motivate you to do something
that may not be rewarding right now,
but will lead to a
much better reward in the future.
Addictive drugs artificially
increase dopamine activity
and fool your brain into thinking that
something wonderful has just happened.
In fact, just the opposite has
This leads to craving and dependence
which can hijack
your free will and can motivate
actions that are harmful too.
Loss of dopamine neurons leads to a lack
of motivation and something called anhedonia,
which is a loss of interest in things
that once gave you pleasure.
Severe loss of dopamine neurons
causes resting tremor,
slowness, rigidity, this is called
Ultimately, it leads to catatonia,
a complete lack of any movement.
Dopamine neurons are part of the
unconscious part of
your brain that you learned about
in the first week.
When you promise to treat yourself
something after a study section,
you are tapping into your dopamine system.
Serotonin is a third diffuse
that strongly affects your social life.
In monkey troops, the Alpha male
has the highest level of
serotonin activity, and the lowest
ranking male has the lowest levels.
Prozac, which is prescribed for
clinical depression, raises the
level of serotonin activity.
The level of serotonin is also
closely linked to risk-taking
behavior, with higher risk in
lower serotonin monkeys.
Inmates in jail for violent crimes
have some of the
lowest levels of serotonin
activity in society.
Finally, your emotions strongly
affect learning as you are well aware.
Emotions were once thought
to be separate from
recent research has shown that
emotions are intertwined with perception
and attention and interact with
learning and memory.
The amygdala, an almond shaped structure shown
here nestled down at the base of the brain,
is one of the major centers where cognition
and emotion are effectively integrated.
The amygdala is a part of the limbic system
which, together with hippocampus, is involved in
processing memory and decision-making
as well as regulating emotional reactions.
You will want to keep your amygdala
happy to be an effective learner.
The emotions and your neuromodulatory
systems are slower than
perception and action, but are no less
important for successful learning.
If you want to learn more about
and serotonin, look them up on
A website that is filled with
valuable facts about your brain.
I’m Terry Sejnowski, happy learning
until we meet again.
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