Failing to act

Sean A Spence

in The actor's brain

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780198526667
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754364 | DOI:
Failing to act

Show Summary Details


The purpose of this chapter has been to examine some of the dysfunctional processes via which a human agent may be deprived of their ability to act. We have seen that there is a wide range of terms deployed, across medical disciplines, in order to describe such phenomena and that often the same brain systems are implicated in their emergence: the frontal lobes, especially the medial prefrontal and premotor cortices, and the components of the anterior cingulate (‘limbic’) loop system, that is, specific, related subcortical nuclei. What is most striking is the impact on a formerly ‘normal’ human being of such apparently focal, discrete disturbances: actions cease, emotions are no longer discernible, and thoughts are apparently absent. These are devastating conditions, impacting not solely the patient but also their families, the people with whom they had enjoyed their premorbid ‘relationships’. For, under such conditions, relationships are radically perturbed: the patient does not communicate, he does not act; he does not seem to ‘care’. However, the situation is not entirely hopeless. In Chapter 10, we shall review one of the methods that clinicians have deployed to restore such actions, to counteract avolition and apathy.

Chapter.  8121 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.