Making Decisions When You're Hungry Is a Bad Idea
Every parent and teacher knows that teaching children impulse control is, in some respects, Job One. At the same time, adults can sometimes be just as impulsive as any toddler or teen. Impulsivity is part of our nature -- and is a key factor in conditions like ADHD, some eating disorders, and even addiction.
Now, researchers at Sweden's University of Gothenburg studying impulsivity in rats have identified a hormone produced when we are hungry that appears to interfere with decision-making capabilities and rational thought. The study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, focused on a GI tract hormone called ghrelin, which is released when the stomach is empty (production of the hormone stops when the stomach is full) and acts on the central nervous system.
"Our results showed that restricting ghrelin effects to … the part of the brain that is a crucial component of the reward system was sufficient to make the rats more impulsive," said lead researcher Karolina Skibicka. "Importantly, when we blocked ghrelin, the impulsive behavior was greatly reduced."