Controlling the brain’s control center

A new Queen’s University study suggests that “impulsive behaviour can be improved with training and the improvement is marked by specific brain changes” (Science Daily).  PhD student Scott Hayton believes he has “pinpointed the area of the brain that controls impulsive behaviour and the mechanisms that affect how impulsive behaviour is learned” (Science Daily).

Mr. Hayton’s research was prompted by a desire to understand how students learn to hold their tongues and wait until being called on by teachers instead of blurting out answers.  Mr. Hayton explained, “We wanted to know how this type of learning occurs in the brain.  Our research basically told us where the memory for this type of inhibition is in the brain, and how it is encoded.”

Mr. Hayton and his team “trained rats to control impulsive responses until a signal was presented” (Science Daily).  As the rats learned to control their impulses, the electrical signals between cells in their brains’ frontal lobes grew stronger.  The significance of this experiment lies in the fact that as cells communicate more effectively, the brain grows more able to control impulses, indicating that humans’ brains, too, can be trained to better communicate and thereby more successfully control impulsiveness.

ADD/ADHD, in addition to addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder and gambling, is marked by impulsiveness.  The study’s principal investigator, Professor Cella Olmstead, explained that “children who have difficulty learning to control a response often have behavioral problems which continue into adulthood.”  Ideally, early intervention would train individuals’ brains to communicate more efficiently.  This increase in processing speed and efficiency would simultaneously decrease the chance of not being able to control impulsivity.

Brainjogging trains individuals’ brains by building new neurons and strengthening communication between existing neurons by continuously calling on brain circuits to communicate information.  The repetitive nature of Brainjogging’s exercises actually “work out” the brain’s neurons, making them more efficient in the same way that “working out” by lifting weights strengthens muscle groups.  By increasing students’ brains’ communication and strengthening the neurons in their frontal lobes, Brainjogging teaches students to control impulsiveness, which is particularly important for students with ADD/ADHD or the obsessive compulsive qualities sometimes associated with ASD.

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