At our best, we motivate ourselves every day to get dressed and go to work or school. Although there are larger incentives at work, it’s our own volition that powers us through our innumerable daily tasks.
This illustration shows an experiment in which subjects received real-time feedback during an MRI scan that showed activity in a reward center of their brain. Without feedback, they were unable to reliably increase activity in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA, in red), but the fluctuating thermometer helped them learn and adopt effective strategies by thinking about motivating themselves. Their self-generated boosts in VTA activation then worked even after the thermometer display was removed.
Credit: Jeff MacInnes, Duke University