Scientists have nailed down the area of the brain that controls impulsive behaviour and say that it can be controlled with training.
A Queen's University research team led Scott Hayton has pinpointed the area of the brain that controls impulsive behaviour and the mechanisms that affect how impulsive behaviour is learned.
The findings are likely to have a significant impact on the diagnosis and treatment of several disorders and addictions, including ADHD and alcoholism.
"In the classroom, kids often blurt out answers before they raise their hand. With time, they learn to hold their tongue and put up their hand until the teacher calls them. We wanted to know how this type of learning occurs in the brain," said Hayton, a PhD student at the Queen's.
"Our research basically told us where the memory for this type of inhibition is in the brain, and how it is encoded," he said.
The team trained rats to control impulsive responses until a signal was presented. Electrical signals between cells in the brain's frontal lobe grew stronger as they learned to control their impulses.
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 behavioural problems which continue into adulthood, said Cella Olmstead, lead investigator on the study.
She noted that impulsivity is a primary feature of many disorders including addiction, ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder and gambling.
Identifying the brain region and mechanism that controls impulsivity is a critical step in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.
The findings were recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience.