Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mild Hunger Increases Cognition

Ever notice how productivity drops around the holidays. People begin to mentally check out, as they begin to think about time with family, and holiday festivities. In addition the workplace is usually filled with goodies, and holiday snacks. Well as it turns out having a full stomach may be partially to blame for a lower ability to think, and not just around the holidays. According to researchers at the Yale medical school the stimulation of hunger can make you smarter.

A team led by Tamas Horvath, chairman of Yale’s comparative medicine program, had been analyzing the pathways followed in mouse brains by ghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach lining, when the stomach is empty. To the scientists’ surprise, they found that ghrelin was binding to cells not just in the primitive part of the brain that registers hunger (the hypothalamus) but also in the region that plays a role in learning, memory and spatial analysis (the hippocampus).

The researchers then put mice injected with ghrelin and control mice through a maze and other intelligence tests. In each case, the biochemically “hungry” mice — mice infused with ghrelin — performed notably better than those with normal levels of the hormone.

They conclude that this is likely true for humans as well. Going mildly hungry and snacking can maintain an edgy state. So bringing in those donuts or holiday treats for you team, might not be the best idea if you want to keep innovation levels high and thinking sharp!

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