Is Willpower the Butterfly Effect in Humans?

The author has been searching scientific research for five years to discover
the physiological site of human willpower (a/k/a volition and conation).

Volition is the act of willing, choosing of resolving. < L to want or wish.
Conation is a psychological term meaning mental life concerned with
striving, desiring, and volition.


A team of neuroscientists at California Institute of Technology in 2009 pinpoints
will-power in the Ventro-Medial PreFrontal Cortex. Others researchers agree, but
add the Hypothalamus, Brainstem, Basal Ganglia, and Cerebellum as supportive structures.

Google: May 1st 2009 journal – Science: article by neuroscientist Todd Hare, CalTech. (Self-Control in Decision Making…#324 p. 646-648).

Who Cares

The majority of scientists still believe will-power is an illusion. The question
is whether our mind – left-hemisphere dominating – is responsible for decision-
making, or is our brain programmed for judgments based on genetics and
experience. Does Conditioning run us like a train?

If there is no will-power, and we just follow the automatic dictates of our brain like a puppet is manipulated by the hand of the Puppet Master, then how can we
be responsible for our acts? No sins, no guilt?

“It is not my fault, my genes and neural networks made me kill the ten students in school.” Maybe it is my hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that is responsible for the

The use of fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery) changes the equation from philosophy to physiology. The making of a decision causes blood to flow
into the brain structure involved in cognition. We can see the change on the screen.

Neuroscience researchers are convinced both left and right hemispheres are involved in will-power. Choosing, decision-making may be driven by our
PreFrontal Cortex, but it triggers other brain structures including Hypothalamus,
Brainstem, Basal Ganglia, and Cerebellum.

Decisions-making is never 100% logical thinking, it is strongly influenced by our emotions produced by our powerful Limbic System. Google: Amygdala.

Speed Reading is your power tool for success.

Hypoglycemia (Presence of Glucose (sugar) in the Bloodstream

Two scientists at Florida State University Galliot & Baumeister, 2007
conclude, “lack of cognition, emotional inhibition, reduced Attention-
Control, and refraining from criminal behavior, are impaired by
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).” Wow.

Let’s get practical, it sounds corny, but scientific research confirms that
we are what-we-eat. There is a physiology of will-power linking your Blood
Glucose level with self-control, will-power, and paying attention.

Get this! We can train (enlarge) our will-power by practice and eating the
lower carbohydrate foods. Will-power can reduce procrastination, and
increase learning, memory, and test scores.

Is this weird? When we exercise (use up) our supply of will-power, the next
decision making has less logic, reason, and planning to cope with future events.
Will-power has to be restored like buying more milk after it is used up.


If you skip breakfast – you are reducing your will-power and turning over
your decision-making to your emotions. You have reduced energy to study or
be productive mentally and physically in your career.

Key Point: our mental and bodily energy is created by Oxygen and Glucose.
Diaphragmatic breathing supplies your blood with the optimal Oxygen supply, and
eating carbohydrates delivers Glucose to all the cells and tissues.

N.B. Meat, fish, eggs, veggies, avocado, wine, and beer, contain low to minimal
glycemia (sugar) that enters your blood. They can be consumed in moderation.

When you are studying or exam taking, your brain requires 10% additional
Oxygen and Glucose. In normal living your brain requires up to 23% of the
entire body’s oxygen and glucose. Studying or complex work, including testing
requires an extra 10% or a total of up to 33% more Oxygen and Glucose.

Immediately prior to making a presentation or taking an exam, eat a Golden,
Delicious Apple, or drink Apple Juice to obtain a dose of Glucose. You will increase
your cognitive level for acing the situation.


Glycemic Index (G.I.) is a list of the carbohydrate values of foods and liquids.
The best list is by the University of Sydney, at It is baby
easy to use, and is self-explanatory. Please check it out for health and longevity.

Low G.I is 55 and under, medium G.I. is 56-69, and high G.I. is
70, and above. A raw apple is 39; dried apple is 29, and apple juice
is (unsweetened) is 40-44.

Oh yeah, orange juice is only 44, and is loaded with Glucose that enters the bloodstream quickly. A couple of swallows when you require more energy has
proven very effective (up to 25%) for SAT and graduate school entrance exams.

Executives making presentations to a Board of Directors etc. increase their
cognitive and memory skills up to 25%.

Butterfly Effect

“Small changes lead to massive reaction. Does the flap of a butterfly’s wing
in Brazil, set off a tornado in Texas?” Edward Lorenz, MIT

In predicting the weather, there is a limit on how far ahead experts can estimate
future events. The greater experience with patterns (forces) of change, the higher the potential for accuracy. Small changes effect future conditions.

Our will-power consists of our supply of Oxygen and Glucose in our bloodstream.
Small changes – eating an apple immediately prior to an important personal
event, can lead to massive-reactions.


Please remember this: the lower the G.I. rank of food and liquids, the less
fluctuation in blood glucose and Insulin. Hypoglycemia (low-blood-sugar)
is a function of our eating and drinking choices.

When you need it, take a shot of glucose by chewing on an apple or hard fruit.

Would it help you in school or your career to read-and-remember three (3)
books, articles, and reports, while your peers can hardly finish one?
Ask us how to add this powerful skill to your brain.

Speed Reading is your secret weapon to success.

copyright © 2009 H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's.
Business partner of Evelyn Wood, creator of speed reading,
graduating 2 million, including the White House staffs of four
U.S. Presidents.