Josef Parvizi Discovers the “Will to Persevere” in the Brain


December 13, 2013, Washington, D.C.
– Iranian Americans continue to make significant strides in the fields of medicine, science, and technology, among others. PAAIA is pleased to highlight the recent findings of Josef Parvizi, an associate professor of neurology at Stanford University. Dr. Parvizi was recently featured on NPR for his discovery of the “will to persevere” in his studies of patients with severe epilepsy.

Patients with severe epilepsy sometimes have no choice but to cut out the part of their brains that trigger their seizures. The first step, however, is to identify the region of the brain where the seizures originate. As a result, a web of electrodes is implanted in the brain, and different areas are stimulated with small electric pulses, one at a time.

In his studies of patients with severe epilepsy, Parvizi discovered that when stimulated, a part of the brain behind the bridge of the nose produced a will to fight. The stimulated anterior mid-cingulate cortex (AMCC) led to a tightening of the chest, increased heart rate, and as Parvizi said, “the will to go towards the storm” and fight, “rather than giving up, being scared, depressed and running back.”

When asked if it was a positive or negative feeling, one patient replied, “It was more of a positive thing like: push harder, push harder, push harder to try and get through this.”

Shortly after, Parvizi worked with another epilepsy patient and stimulated the man’s AMCC. The second patient also had an increased heartbeat, a concern that something bad was going to happen, and a sense that he had to fight through whatever it was.

“It was so similar to what I had seen in the earlier patient!” says Parvizi. “It reminded me of the other patient. Both of them had a similar set of changes—the foreboding sense of anxiety and the motivation or determination to meet the challenge face-to-face.”

PAAIA congratulates Parvizi on the amazing work he is doing and the path he has created for future scientists studying cognitive control.

Click here to read more about what Parvizi is doing and listen to him on NPR.

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