You know those old cartoons where a character has a little angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, urging them to act either reasonably or rashly?


Well, scientists have found the centre in the brain that may kick in when the angel wins out.


A paper describing this “self-control” centre was published yesterday in the Journal of Neuroscience.


“Once your conscience has told you that you shouldn’t take the candy from the baby, this is the area that would spring into action to stop you,” said University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martha Farah.


The research may explain why drug addicts can’t kick their habits or why a child with an attention deficit disorder is so hyperactive.

“A drug addict knows that taking a drug is ruining his life ... the kid with (attention disorder) knows he should sit quietly in his chair in the classroom,” Farah said. “And the hypothesis that this area might be dysfunctional in these types of disorders is a really interesting one to test.”

‘Free won’t’

  • As opposed to the “free will” area of the brain, which drives a person to action, Farah calls this separate neural area the “free won’t” centre.