The movement should be worth the effort, economically speaking

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A note for The Half-Lesson, "Your Brain Is Not for Thinking," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 8‌‌ is:

...moving takes energy from the [creature's body] budget. The movement should be worth the effort, economically speaking.

The appendix adds:

The idea of worthwhile movement is well studied in the field of economics, where it’s called "value."

For the economic idea of value, the hypothesis goes like this: when an animal has to make a decision, such as sitting still versus running, the two alternatives are converted into an internal “common currency” that allows the animal choose the action with higher value. Is it more valuable to conserve energy by not moving and potentially miss out on nutrients, or to invest energy by moving in the hopes of obtaining even more energy? When the animal is potentially in harm’s way, is it more valuable to conserve energy by staying still or to invest some energy to high-tail it out of there?

Neuroeconomists hypothesize that animals use internal common currency to compare the value of different options, like buying a pair of shoes, eating a meal, or saving money for retirement. Psychologists hypothesize that the common currency is affect or mood.[1] Some neuroeconomists like Paul Glimcher hypothesize that value is separate from affect.[2] Others like Antonio Rangel hypothesize that value and affect may be related but that affect is impossible to measure objectively.[3]

I hypothesize that value is related to metabolic or energy regulation (i.e., body budgeting). To me, it’s interesting that neuroscience studies identify the same group of brain regions as being important for value and affect, such as the anterior insula, the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex — regions that are critical for body-budgeting (allostasis).[4][5][6]

Interesting new work by the neuroscientist Dana Small suggests that value may be more linked to metabolic considerations rather than affect, per se.[7][8]


  1. Cabanac, Michel. 1992. “Pleasure: The Common Currency.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 155 (2): 173–200.
  2. Levy, Dino J., and Paul W. Glimcher. (2012). “The Root of All Value: A Neural Common Currency for Choice.” Current Opinion in Neurobiology 22 (6): 1027–1038.
  3. Clithero, John A. and Antonio Rangel. 2013. “Informatic Parcellation of the Network Involved in the Computation of Subjective Value.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9 (9): 1289–1302.
  4. Barrett, Lisa Feldman. 2017. How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, chapter 4. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  5. Lindquist, Kristen A., Ajay B. Satpute, Tor D. Wager, Jochen Weber, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2016. “The Brain Basis of Positive and Negative Affect: Evidence from a Meta-Analysis of the Human Neuroimaging Literature.” Cerebral Cortex 26 (5): 1910–1922.
  6. Kleckner, Ian R., Jolie Baumann Wormwood, W. Kyle Simmons, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Karen S. Quigley. 2015. “Methodological Recommendations for a Heartbeat Detection-Based Measure of Interoceptive Sensitivity.” Psychophysiology 52 (11): 1432–40.
  7. de Araujo, Ivan E., Mark Schatzker, and Dana M. Small. 2020. "Rethinking Food Reward." Annual Review of Psychology 71: 139–164.
  8. de Araujo, Ivan E., T. Lin, M. G. Veldhuizen, and Dana M. Small. 2013. "Metabolic Regulation of Brain Response to Food Cues. Current Biology 23: 878–883.