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Serotonin plays a key role in patience and impulse control, research says
There is a neurological link between serotonin levels and the brain's ability to control impulses and patience levels.
- Prior research has suggested a possible link between a lack of serotonin receptors in the brain and impulsive behaviors.
- A recent study from the Neural Computation Unit at the OIST explored this further, resulting in evidence that there is in fact a neurological factor to the brain's ability to control impulses and manage patience.
- This research could reveal more data on how serotonin impacts regions of the brain, which could eventually lead to the development of new drug treatments for conditions such as depression and addiction, among others.
The old adage "patience is a virtue" is coming undone due to new research that suggests patience (along with impulse control) can be linked to specific neurological systems. Instead of being solely determined by our behaviors as previously thought, both patience and impulse control may be something derived from our biology.
A previous study involving mice showed a possible link between a lack of serotonin receptors in the brain and impulsive behaviors. As this link has been recently discovered and is not yet entirely understood, the new research team aimed to understand the neurological processes that control patience and impulsive behavior.
That same team of scientists published another study in the journal Nature Communications. This study pushed this theory further by researching the role of the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN)—the part of the brain that contains serotonin-releasing neurons—in mice. It was during this study that they found a causal relationship between the action that serotonin has on this brain region and the patience for anticipated rewards.
Three areas of the brain can impact your patience and impulse control
What role does biology really play in our ability to be patient and control our impulses?
Credit: whitehoune on Adobe Stock
The Neural Computation Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) ran the latest study, which focused on three parts of the brain:
- NAc - nucleus accumbens, which has been previously studied as a key region in the brain that mediates a variety of behaviors, including reward and satisfaction.
- OFC - orbitofrontal cortex, which is considered to have a role in higher-order cognition (like decision-making).
- mPFC - medial prefrontal cortex, which is among the brain regions that have the highest baseline metabolic activity. This part of the brain is also suggested to mediate decision-making.
According to Medical News Today, the team chose these regions of the brain because prior research has shown that damage to them leads to an increase in impulsive behaviors.
The mice were later divided into groups; one group had the optic fibers in the NAc part of the brain, one group had the optic fibers inserted into the OFC part of the brain, and the last group had optic fibers put into the mPFC parts of the brain. The team then observed how each group responded to serotonin stimulation.
To take their research to the next level, the team used mice that were genetically engineered to have specialized proteins that release serotonin on exposure to photostimulation. The mice were trained to poke their nose inside a hole (to wait for a food item). Then, they underwent surgery in which researchers implanted an optic fiber into the DRN part of the brains of the mice.
Seventy-five perfect of the mice were put through the waiting task again while activating a serotonin release through a light stimulation procedure. The other 25 percent went into an "omission" group that received no rewards or serotonin stimulation.
The results of this study prove serotonin plays a role in patience and impulse control.
When the research team activated the serotonergic neurons in the DRN of the mice, they displayed improved patience when waiting for food rewards. Stimulating the OFC area was almost as effective as stimulating the DRN area in promoting these prolonged wait times in the mice. However, triggering the NAc had no impact.
A particularly interesting part of this study was that, upon stimulating the mPFC region of the brain in the mice, their ability to wait for the food reward was enhanced but only when they did not know the food's arrival time. These results suggest that serotonin in the mPFC can impact the animal's ability to evaluate the time required to wait for a reward. Meanwhile, the neurochemical's presence in the OFC assists in the overall assessment of a delayed reward.
"This confirmed the idea that these two brain areas are calculating the probability of a reward independently from each other and that these independent calculations are then combined to ultimately determine how long the mice will wait," Dr. Miyazaki told Medical News Today.
This research could reveal more data on how serotonin impacts regions of the brain, which could eventually lead to the development of new drug treatments for conditions such as depression and addiction, among others.
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.
One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.
- Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
- Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
- Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Munazza Alam – a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Credit: Jackie Faherty
Jupiter's Colorful Cloud Bands Studied by Spacecraft<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a72dfe5b407b584cf867852c36211dc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GzUzCesfVuw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.