The University of Southern California researchers, who conducted a series of studies on rats, determined that impulsive behavior and hunger are separate functions in the brain.
The researchers presented the rats with two tasks. In one task, the rat was given the option to press a lever and receive a treat every 20 seconds. In another, the rats were given the option of two levers, one gave an immediate, single treat, while the other gave a batch of treats, but on a timed release, according to the study.
The research revealed that the rats favored the immediate gratification of a single treat, even though waiting 30-45 seconds could have yielded much more food.
Kanoski said altering the levels of MCH in the rats’ brains did not affect the results the way they had predicted.
"We would drive the system up, and then we would see the animals be more impulsive," Kanoski said. "And if we reduced function we thought they would be less impulsive, but instead we found that they were more so. Either way, they had elevated impulsivity."
Now, researchers plan to look at the link between the brain circuit and the brain’s reward system, Kanoski said, who said that could help develop treatments for disorders linked to impulsivity.