Impulse Control: Making Your Brain Work for You

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Heather Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist, clinical psychologist, and Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Dr. Berlin is a committee member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Committee on Science and Technology Engagement with the Public. She co-hosts StarTalk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and hosted the PBS series Science Goes to the Movies, and the Discovery Channel series Superhuman Showdown.




Can we learn to control our impulses before they control us? Even more importantly: can we learn to let them flow when it really matters? Countless years of life are lost and countless chances at happiness are missed because of our unhealthy relationship with impulses, which we tend to control too little (e.g., addiction and explosive anger) or too much (e.g., repression and anxiety). Understanding the underlying mechanisms of impulse control can give you the potential to live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled life.

Neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin and her colleagues have been illuminating these mechanisms for years, including the surprising positive effects of losing control at the right time and in the right place. Some domains of human experience, such as meditation, improvisation, and therapy under certain psychoactive drugs, offer controlled circumstances under which losing control provides overwhelming and repeatable benefits to human well-being. By understanding these dynamics that are already at play in you, you can master the fine art of losing control and gaining it back, learn to adjust your impulse control settings at will, and make your brain work for you.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the brain basis of impulse control and impulse control disorders?
  1. What is the neuroscience of free will?
  1. What are some strategies to gain control over impulses and to let go in therapeutic ways?
  1. Why does psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy seem so promising for treatment-resistant psychiatric disorders?





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Nikolay Voev

Very informative

I loved it! I was really curios about the effects of different types of drugs like LSD, MDMA and ketamine on the brain and the studies on the matter. I’m glad I watched it!

2 years ago
Daniel Steyn

Practical Takeaways!

Having experienced the negative effects of impulsiveness in my own life, it was refreshing to learn some active and passive ways of becoming more impulsive-averse. Great lecture! Would highly recommend everyone takes it.

2 years ago
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