KINGSTON, Ontario, Sept. 21 (UPI) — Impulsive behavior is marked by specific changes in the brain, Canadian researchers say, findings that could help diagnose and treat several disorders.
Scientists at Queen’s University in Ontario have pinpointed the area of the brain controlling impulsive behavior and the mechanisms that affect how impulsive behavior is learned, a university release says.
The research could have a significant impact on the diagnosis and treatment of several disorders and addictions, including ADHD and alcoholism, researchers say.
“In the classroom, kids often blurt out answers before they raise their hand. With time, they learn to hold their tongue and not put up their hand until the teacher calls them,” doctoral student Scott Hayton at the university’s Center for Neuroscience Studies said.
“We wanted to know how this type of learning occurs in the brain.”
The team trained rats to control impulsive responses until a signal was presented. As they learned to control their impulses, electrical signals between cells in their brain’s frontal lobes grew stronger.
This showed that impulsivity is represented in a specific brain region by a change in communication between neurons.
Children who have difficulty learning to control a response often have behavioral problems that continue into adulthood, Professor Cella Olmstead, principal investigator on the study, said.
Impulsivity is a primary feature of many disorders, including addiction, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder and gambling, she said.
Identifying the brain region and mechanism that controls impulsivity is a critical step in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, she said.
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