Do you take the pizza or salad for lunch? Will you have the apple or the chocolate bar in your afternoon tea break? Choosing a healthy snack although tempting, tasty alternatives are available, poses a self-control dilemma that many individuals encounter each day.
Typically, we observe a large heterogeneity in self-control behaviour. In my work as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Todd Hare at the University of Zurich, I investigate how the current physiological context in which the body finds itself influences the individual capacity for self-regulation. One example of such context is acute stress, which leads to changes in hormone levels (for example cortisol) and in the perception of the current strain an individual faces. Another example is the organism’s readiness and flexibility to adapt to challenges in the environment that we can assess using markers such as heart rate variability. In Nudge-It, I also investigate whether an individual’s capacities for emotion regulation and dietary self-control are linked, and whether they are served by the same or different neural mechanisms.
To assess the neural underpinnings of these individual differences in self-regulation, I use a combination of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), behavioural measures, and physiological indices such as hormone assays and heart rate variability.
Maier, SU, Makwana, AB, & Hare, TA (2015), Acute Stress Impairs Self-Control in Goal-Directed Choice by Altering Multiple Functional Connections within the Brain’s Decision Circuits, Neuron, 87 (3), 621-631.