Sci + Society,
Smart Drugs,

#102: Chemical Willpower

November 13, 2015

Fact 1: Regular exercise is good for your health.

Fact 2: Many people are inherently lazy about exercise.

Question: Should these people use “motivational” chemicals so they don’t hate exercise so much, and can form better health habits?

To examine this question, Jesse is joined by Prof. Samuele Marcora the author of the provocatively titled paper – “Can Doping be a Good Thing?”  Their discussion looks closely at the perception of effort and limiting factors of motivation, along with the current methods of enhancement and scope of future technologies.

Stick around for the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick if you want to hone your psychopath-spotting skills.  (Who doesn’t?)  Jesse shares some recent bittersweet developments on the emotion of empathy – and those who lack it.

PS:  Now before you grab your gym bag or make a beeline for the treadmill don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletterBrain Breakfast.  It is as delicious to read as it sounds.

Show Notes
  • 00:00:33

    Exercise and motivation - the connection.

  • 00:01:18

    This Week In Neuroscience: Placebo effect growing stronger in the US.

  • 00:03:55

    The audience interaction section.

  • 00:05:53

    Jesse introduces Prof. Samuele Marcora.

  • 00:07:03

    A little bit of background.

  • 00:07:53

    Breeding motivation.

  • 00:09:14

    Perception of effort.

  • 00:10:53

    Principle of least effort.

  • 00:12:20

    Physical vs mental tasks.

  • 00:14:01

    Limiting factor of motivation - delayed rewards.

  • 00:15:01

    Looking at Prof. Marcora's study.

  • 00:17:31

    Perception of performance enhancement.

  • 00:19:21

    The path ahead and scope of future research.

  • 00:25:14

    Jesse is reading The Sports Gene.

  • 00:26:39

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Psycho spotting.

One comment

  1. Lazydog says:

    Yes!!! I have to also say that I am a believer of this concept too and I’m glad that Professor Marcora is pushing the taboo boundaries. One reason I agree is that I have a bit of experience. A few years back I was actually put on a couple rounds of steroids as a result of a very bad allergic reaction. The first round didn’t seem to effect me much which is why my allergist put me on a higher dose of prednisone and then weened me off. He warned me that I may have side effects of a voracious appetite, and may find it very hard to sleep. Which I indeed have those side effects and tried to eat as much veggies and healthy food when that occurred and we all need more time in a day so not sleeping wasn’t exactly bad. A few interesting things also occured; I am one of those people that has to really push themselves to exercise(I lack that special sports gene) but on this second round of steroids I found I didn’t need to convince myself to exercise as much as I did before, I found my exercises were more intense and that I could run forever if I wanted to.This in turn motivated me to exercise more to see how far I could go or push myself. I usually stopped short of what I felt I could do mostly because I had places to go and be, not because I was spent. I looked forward to my workouts and increased them. While yes I found it hard to sleep; I also found that I felt well rested when I woke(maybe because of the HIIT) and that when I woke it was easier to get going in the morning than usual (I’m also not a morning person). Needles to say I loved the effects or prednisone. My family all knows this and knows I would have no problems if I had to take this again. Which I know, it is not good for the body and that is why they ween you off it. yada yada yada…But I couldn’t help wonder then how this could apply to help people when starting a workout routine stay motivated. When I discussed this with my Doctor. He found this strange because it is not an anabolic steroid or what gym rats would use to get pumped and so it shouldn’t have given me those effects. Maybe the anti imflammatory response made it easier for me to do longer and intense workouts. As for the sleep and energy we don’t know except that it does effect our natural hormones… Either way it helped me stay motivated with my workout routine for a while.
    I thought to myself that this may be a great way to get people back into their their work out routine if they were under the supervision of a doctor and weened them off it properly. Speaking of my experience to others I’ve quickly realized this is very taboo topic. But I think its because we don’t understand enough about it. How is this different then some of the more extreme weight loss drugs that cause heart problems, GI problems and yet don’t increase the motivation to stay active.And as you pointed out surgeries and gastric bypass. I really think this would benefit alot of people.Maybe steroids is not the drug of choice so I’m interested to know what kind of “drugs” professor Marcora is thinking about testing with and why?

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