My 1995 Theory of Motivation

This is the diagram I drew when I was trying to explain my theory of motivation to Rajan Thomas in March 1995, shortly before I was first “sectioned” (as Thomas called it). BG stands for basal ganglia, and my theory was that satisfaction of instincts for communication, curiosity and play resulted in release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the midbrain. This is now accepted to be the case in the ‘pleasure circuits’ and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.

At the time I had not heard of the nucleus accumbens, but was developing integrative theories about the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline (NA in the diagram) and serotonin and the function of the reticular activating system (RAS) which is a noradrenergic network involved in sleep and consciousness. I postulated that our motivation is a balance between not just instincts and conditioning as I had learned at medical school, but by free will, which I regarded important both psychologically and legally as well as spiritually. I suggested to Rajan Thomas that free will is influenced by our memories and experiences. I also acknowledged drives for food, shelter and sex, but was more interested in developing theories about the instincts that could be used to promote mental health, like communication, curiosity and play. I subsequently presented my theory of motivation at the physiology department of Monash University (October 1995), Theosophical Society (1996) and the Australian College of Mind-Body Medicine (1998) to a much more receptive response.

Rajan Thomas gathered only that my theory of motivation was that “movement causes improvement in mental health”. The theory evidently went over his head, and I realised this at the time when I asked him what he thought motivated people.

1995 theory of motivation explanation to Rajan Thomas

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