Motivation and Neurocognitive Impairment

Effective motivation is dependent on the perception of adequate resources. When availability of resources shuts down—or the perception of such—then, the motivation or drive to complete a challenging task becomes attenuated.

The performance on the cognitive task is influenced by stress or by stimulation. When the task is not meaningful and is not accompanied by positive reinforcement, then, the performance declines (due to the fact listed above).

The performance on the neurocognitive task is related to the negative symptoms, that is, they are both in the same domain and constitute the individual’s reactivity to a situation at a given time.

Evidence for the above is the fact that individuals perform worse when they are carrying out the task in a medical setting. They perform much better in different setting, such as a recreational setting. The explanation is that the medical environment imposes a stress on the individual and, so far as, the setting is conceived of as an evaluation.

In applying the concept of mode to these reactions, it is speculated that at the time of testing, the individual sinks to a lower-level of functioning, which is represented in diminished performance on the test and in specific negative symptoms, such as flatness.

An experiment showed that individuals, who scored poorly on a neurocognitive task, may show a much higher level of functioning when they are with their families (Indian study). This would seem to indicate that under a stimulating environment, a more adaptive mode is activated, and the individual becomes more engaged in the environment.

We have found, clinically, that when individual become engaged in a meaningful activity or interaction with a therapist, that they can do things that were not possible during the regressed state, for example, playing charades, playing chess, driving a car, or shopping.

When the individuals become engaged in this way, there is a shift from the regressive mode, to the adaptive mode. This is apparent in their behavior, their flatness diminishes, they talk more, they are more motivated and sociable, and they are obviously having a good time. In other words, their negative symptoms have become attenuated and the adaptive functions are activated.

It is possible to conceive of the negative syndrome as a manifestation of the regressive mode, in which the normal adaptive functions are damped down.

Dysfunctional or adaptive attitudes either de-energized or energize the various functions of the individuals. This includes not only the voluntary functions, including motivation, the anticipation of pleasure, sociality, and activity, but also the involuntary functions, such as those involved with communication, namely, facial affect, speech, and expressive movements. Whether or not the functions are energized, is determined by the accessibility of resources. When the attitudes are positive, the individual operates at the adaptive mode; when de-energized, the individual operates at the regressive mode (negative syndrome). The positive or negative attitudes, thus, either animate or de-animate the individual.

Note: the energizing includes conscious motivation, will power, and the automatic activations (i.e. affect). Spontaneous motivation apparently is able to draw on the resources more readily, whereas the expenditure of effort draws on the resources and exhausts them more quickly.


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