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The Anterior Midcingulate Cortex

Discover how your anterior midcingulate cortex can improve your decision-making and motor functions in this comprehensive guide.

Did you know that you can train your brain and improve its functions the same way you can train your muscles and increase their size?

Scientists have recently discovered that a part of your brain called the anterior midcingulate cortex can grow larger in response to certain activities.

What is the anterior midcingulate cortex, what affects its size, and why should you even care about getting it bigger?

We’ll answer all of these questions in this post. 

What Is the Anterior Midcingulate Cortex?

what is anterior midcingulate cortex

The anterior midcingulate cortex, or aMCC, is a crucial part of the brain located in the cingulate cortex, which resembles a ‘collar’ surrounding the corpus callosum

Scientific terms aside, this anterior midcingulate cortex plays a significant role in our cognitive and emotional functions, and its size can actually change based on how much we utilize it.

Think of it like this: When you go to the gym, you work out your muscles to help them grow.

Stressing your muscles in the gym causes micro-tears in the muscle fibers, which the body compensates for by depositing more muscle fibers, resulting in bigger muscle mass.

How Does the Anterior Midcingulate Cortex Grow in Size?

andrew huberman talks about anterior midcingulate cortex

The anterior midcingulate cortex size grows when you engage in an activity that you don’t enjoy or find exceptionally challenging.

For example, if you’re an introvert with a social battery that drains quickly when you’re with people, forcing yourself to attend more gatherings than you often do will increase the size of your anterior midcingulate cortex.

Similarly, doing any activity that gets you out of your comfort zone will contribute to increasing its size. Keep in mind that the activity must take you out of your comfort zone.

For example, if you don’t like cold water, but force yourself to take an ice bath, your anterior midcingulate cortex will grow in size

However, if you start enjoying the process of having an ice bath, then you’re no longer outside your comfort zone, which doesn’t challenge the anterior midcingulate cortex to grow larger.

You see, the activity of the midcingulate cortex is linked to success in various tasks, from overcoming challenges to achieving long-term goals.

Whenever you’re doing a task where success is no longer a challenge, you’re not utilizing your anterior midcingulate cortex to grow.

Why Should You Care About Growing Your Anterior Midcingulate Cortex?

With all this talk about growing the midcingulate cortex, one might wonder if it’s worth the hassle of continuously going outside their comfort zone.

To answer this, you need to understand something about the human brain. Did you know that, according to research, intelligence scores were associated with more folds in the temporo-occipital lobe of the brain?

In other words, more fold means more nerve cells which contributes to the higher thinking capacity of intelligent people.

The same can be applied to the anterior midcingulate cortex. When its size is larger, its functions become more heightened.

Here are the brain functions that you get when your midcingulate cortex is bigger:

  • Better decision-making, as the anterior midcingulate cortex helps you weigh costs and benefits, which improves your choices.
  • Better error detection and monitoring, alerting you to mistakes and constantly regulating and optimizing your performance.
  • Attention allocation, allowing you to direct your focus where it’s needed the most.
  • Goal-directed behavior and motivation, driving your determination and perseverance to achieve goals.
  • Motor control and contribution to planning and executing physical movements.

In less sciencey words, having a larger anterior midcingulate cortex helps you achieve your goals by regulating your emotions and improving your decision-making skills.

We can also say that it somewhat helps you generate motivation.  

How to Keep the Anterior Midcingulate Cortex Engaged

keep anterior midcingulate cortex engaged

Just like muscles, not using your anterior midcingulate cortex will make it shrink back to its original size.

That’s applicable even if you have already tried and succeeded in getting out of your comfort zone to do things that you don’t want.

In other words, if you don’t continue to invest in doing tasks that are challenging for you, then you’re not training the anterior midcingulate cortex enough for it to retain its size.

That’s why you should continue to find ‘useful’ goals that challenge your anterior midcingulate cortex to grow larger, which reflects an increase in all the functions we mentioned earlier.

What Kind of Activities Grow Your Anterior Midcingulate Cortex?

brain exercises to train anterior midcingulate cortex

Any useful physical or mental activity that you find challenging can help you grow your anterior midcingulate cortex. Examples of such activities are:

Challenging Activities

  • Going to the gym when you feel that you don’t want to.
  • Standing up from your seat and getting chores done around the house when you feel too lazy to do so.

Activities That Require Focus and Sustained Attention

  • Mental puzzles and learning new skills.
  • Meditation and mindfulness exercises.
  • Deep reading and listening, where you absorb material to encourage sustained focus and engagement, similar to meditation benefits.
  • Finishing tasks earlier than their deadline to beat that ‘the due isn’t today, then don’t do it today’ feeling.

Activities That Engage Error Monitoring and Correction

  • Learning from mistakes by analyzing them in any endeavor, whether a game, a project, or a social interaction.
  • Accepting constructive criticism by seeking and accepting constructive feedback on your work or performance.

Activities That Promote Motivation and Goal Setting

  • Studying early for your tests even if you still have a long time ahead.
  • Setting goals, plans, and milestones, and forcing yourself to stick to those plans.
  • Helping others by engaging in activities that benefit others can activate the reward system in the brain, including the aMCC, fostering motivation and positive emotions.

Final Words

Scientists are still trying to understand the full capability of the anterior midcingulate cortex, but what we do know for now is that it amplifies your mental ability to handle your life, which is why investing in making it larger can put your life on a new track.

Whether you do it physically or mentally, many methods exist to increase the size of your anterior midcingulate cortex.

The key is consistency.

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