Don’t Make Decisions When Hungry, and Other News

Multiple hands reaching for muffinsAn empty stomach may increase a hormone linked to impulsivity, suggesting hunger can undermine judgment, according to rat research published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers suspected ghrelin, a hormone released in the intestines when the stomach is empty, might be linked to poor decision-making. The hormone produces feelings of hunger, and production ceases when the stomach is no longer empty.

To test their theory, the team trained rats to either press or not press a lever in response to a “go” or “no-go” signal. Rats who correctly followed the signal received a reward. Next, they offered the reward only if the rats delayed their response.

Finally, researchers offered rats two levers. The first offered a food pellet when pressed. The second offered four food pellets, but only after a delay. If rats pushed the first lever before the second, the second lever no longer worked. This approach was designed to teach delayed gratification.

When researchers injected the rats’ brains with ghrelin, they were unable to delay their response in the second trial, and unable to resist pushing the second lever in the third trial. These findings suggest hunger’s physiological effects may directly undermine impulse control, even when low impulsivity offers a greater reward.

Marijuana Use in Pregnancy is Major Risk for Preterm Birth

A study of 5,500 pregnant women suggests marijuana use during pregnancy is a major risk factor for preterm birth. Marijuana use through 20 weeks’ gestation, researchers found, increases the risk of preterm birth five-fold, independent of other risk factors. In total, 5.6% of study participants reported using marijuana while pregnant.

State Officials Consider Supervised Heroin Sites

Lawmakers in several states, including New York, California, and Maryland, are considering supervised heroin use sites as a method for combating drug abuse deaths and crime. Supporters compare the sites to syringe exchanges, which offer clean needles in exchange for dirty ones. Though once controversial, syringe exchanges now exist in 33 states.

When Daydreaming Becomes a Problem

According to clinical psychology professor Eli Somer, the author of a study of excessive daydreaming, some daydreaming may be counterproductive. Somer suggests daydreaming could even warrant a mental health diagnosis, and proposes the term “maladaptive daydreaming.” In his study of 340 self-identified maladaptive daydreamers, maladaptive daydreamers spent 57% of their waking lives daydreaming, compared to just 16% in the control group. They had more elaborate daydreams that often involved idealized versions of themselves and thoughts of historical figures or celebrities.

Doctors Must Lead Us Out of Our Opioid Abuse Epidemic

According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, doctors have an obligation to lead the fight against opioid abuse—a disease that kills someone every 19 minutes. Dr. Gupta argues doctors know the typical profile of a potential opioid abuser, who is often male, white, in his thirties, and suffering with chronic pain from a back injury. By screening for addiction risk factors and signs of addiction, Dr. Gupta believes doctors can make appropriate prescription decisions while combating the epidemic of opioid addiction.

First Mouse Studies Show Zika Explode in Fetal Brain, Confirm Link to Defects

Three new mouse studies have shown the devastating effects the Zika virus can have on the brain. The studies suggest the virus targets fetal brains, attacks developing neurons, weakens immune responses, and kills cells. Numerous developing mice died in utero, while others were eaten by their mothers when they were born—a common method for culling sick pups.

Abstinence May Not Be Best Policy for Avoiding Online Risk

Parents who worry about online risks such as bullying, online predators, and loss of privacy may prohibit access to the online world, or to certain sites. But new research suggests abstinence might not be the best strategy. Instead, researchers found teens often competently handle risky situations on their own. Allowing them to gradually experience and manage risk may prepare them for life in a digital world.

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  • Valerie

    Valerie

    May 13th, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    This is why I always go to the grocery store when I have just eaten! Less chance for impulse shopping!

  • George

    George

    May 13th, 2016 at 12:01 PM

    I have heard of the supervised drug sites but I just don’t know how I feel about that. Aren’t these types of facilities just enabling the drug abusers to keep on using and abusing?

  • leigh

    leigh

    May 14th, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    too hungry=hangry for me
    not really the right frame of mind I choose to be in when making important decisions

  • Racheal

    Racheal

    May 16th, 2016 at 11:22 AM

    If I am now going to be labeled for being an excessive daydreamer then I guess I just have to live with it. MY mind has a hard time focusing on one specific thing for a long length of time, but hey, I have always managed to be successful despite the wandering mind.

  • simone

    simone

    May 16th, 2016 at 4:30 PM

    Now can anyone tell me what sort of idiot would think that it is okay to smoke dope while they are pregnant and expecting a child? I mean, it is so obvious that the time in your life when you would actually want to be the healthiest is when you are growing another person inside of you. To think that there are actually those who are advocating for the occasional cigarette or glass of wine while pregnant, much less smoking a joint, is beyond pathetic to me.

  • Daniel

    Daniel

    May 17th, 2016 at 2:47 PM

    How in this day and time could we ever expect that our teens could be digitally abstinent?

    Forcing them to be this disconnected is in my opinion only going to make them even more susceptible to the bullying that you are trying to help them avoid. Furthermore it makes them even more curious about the things that are out there in this world and they might go about exploring those things in an unsafe way.

  • brett

    brett

    May 19th, 2016 at 11:08 AM

    I agree with Dr. Gupta that the physicians have to play a huge role in lessening the numbers of opiate addicts in this country. But I also understand that many of these patients do nothing but shop from doctor to doctor, getting prescriptions form many different providers. By the time they may make it to your door step they are probably already addicted looking for more and what do you do with them then? At that point it is already too late to be screening for addiction potential because they are already well past that. I think that in cases like this the doctors feel very torn given that pain is now a vital sign to be checked and what happens if you do not address those pain concerns? You get sued by the patient of course.

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