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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Queen's team finds area of brain that controls impulsive behaviour

Queen's team finds area of brain that controls impulsive behaviour

Researchers at Queens University in Ontario say they have been able to locate the part of the human brain which causes us to exhibit impulsive behavior in our daily lives,that being the frontal lobe of the brain.Prior to this research scientists ascribed to the believe that those of us who exhibit impulsive behavior, did so do to personality factors. However, this new research suggests that impulsive behavior is due to two factors:impulsivity itself is a failure of memory as well, a failure of a memory for inhibiting or for impulse control." It must be pointed out that this research was not a result of the scientific study of humans, but rather involved the study of lab rats,which means that these findings need to be duplicated on human subjects before these findings are reliable and valid for us.

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As far as I am concerned, the problem with this new research is that a few months ago other scientific researchers suggested that people who are prone to impulsive behavior, are in this state because "Impulsivity has long been linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is involved in learning and reward."A team of researchers led by Joshua Buckholtz, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, proposed that people who were more impulsive might have less active dopamine receptors in their midbrain but their brains would be more likely to fire off large quantities of the neurotransmitter when stimulated."

"To verify their hypothesis, the researchers used PET scans to watch the brains of 32 healthy and psychiatrically normal test subjects ages 18 to 35 (who had no history of substance abuse) while they were taking a classic test to measure impulsivity. Before the first testing round, subjects had taken a placebo pill, but before the second, they were given an oral dose of amphetamine, which can stimulate the brain's reward pathways, mobilizing dopamine."

"People who had the higher impulsivity scores had the lowest activity in the midbrain D2/D3 autoreceptors, which are in charge of receiving dopamine. But under the influence of the amphetamine, these impulsive individuals released much more dopamine than those who were less impulsive."

"To see how these changes might be related to substance abuse—which has also been linked to dopamine abnormalities—the researchers polled the subjects about how much they wanted more of the amphetamine after the experiment ended."

"The people who had the highest levels of dopamine release reported subjectively stronger cravings after we gave them the drug," Buckholtz says. These findings "suggest a neurobiological link between human impulsiveness and drug abuse vulnerability," the researchers noted in their paper.

"But what causes these individual differences? "Our best guess is that perhaps there's some inherited or environmentally mediated predisposition to having lower midbrain dopamine autoreceptor availability," Buckholtz says."

"The evidence for genetic inheritance is strong, and another recent study, published earlier this month in Psychological Science, found people with a certain dopamine receptor type—known as DRD4—had different drinking habits than those without it. Specifically, test subjects with this variant were more likely to drink heavily if they had seen others doing the same while those without that variant kept their drinking moderate even when surrounded by heavier boozers."


 Because different conclusions have been reached concerning why some humans are prone to impulsive behavior, this suggests more research must be done to see if these research findings can be replicated. Finding the area of the brain responsible for impulsive behavior may be useful in the future in terms of possible intervention with medicine, however  based on the things I remember when I was in college training to be a teacher, these conclusions do little to help a person who is impulsive,especially children. This is why educators and psychologists use other techniques to help children who have been found to be impulsive. One of these techniques is to have a child use self talk. For example,
" “Telling yourself, ‘Stick to that diet, stick to that diet’. . . that kind of self-talk actually contributes to self-control,” said Michael Inzlicht,  “When we don’t have the ability to engage in this kind of self-talk, we have less ability to control ourselves.”  (source:

It will be interesting to see if some actions of humans which may have their root in the impulsivity (such as criminal or self-harming behavior), can now be treated due to these new findings. ) These findings also do not consider the role of social and psychological elements in the impulsive behavior of a person. For instance, if a child is in a family where a parent is modelling impulsive behavior, then how does knowing the part of the brain in which impulsive behavior is controlled, help teachers,counselors or psychologists, plan an intervention to reduce the impulsivity of a child?

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.