by Staff Writers
New York NY (SPX) Sep 01, 2011
In a landmark study in the late 1960s and early 1970s used marshmallows and cookies to assess the ability of preschool children to delay gratification. If they held off on the temptation to eat a treat, they were rewarded with more treats later. Some of the children resisted, others didn't.
A newly published follow-up revisits some of the same children, now adults, revealing that these differences remain: Those better at delaying gratification as children remained so as adults; likewise, those who wanted their cookie right away as children were more likely to seek instant gratification as adults.
Furthermore, brain imaging showed key differences between the two groups in two areas: the prefrontal cortex and the ventral striatum. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is the first time we have located the specific brain areas related to delayed gratification. This could have major implications in the treatment of obesity and addictions," says lead author Dr. B.J. Casey, director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Sackler Professor of Developmental Psychobiology.
In the current study, Dr. Casey and her co-investigators recruited 59 adults who participated as young children in the original study and represented either extreme of the delayed-gratification spectrum - high delayers and low delayers. Because marshmallows and cookies can be less rewarding to adults, the researchers substituted two tests.
In the first, participants looked at a screen displaying a series of faces and were asked to signal only when a face of one gender was shown. This "cool" test revealed no significant differences between the two groups.
A second, "hot" test used emotional cues such as a happy or frightened face. These results were much more varied and revealed that aptitude for delayed gratification was consistent from childhood into adulthood.
"In this test, a happy face took the place of the marshmallow. The positive social cue interfered with the low delayer's ability to suppress his or her actions," explains Dr. Casey.
The second test was then repeated while the participant's brain was scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results showed that the brain's prefrontal cortex was more active for high delayers and the ventral striatum - an area linked to addictions - was more active in low delayers.
The original marshmallows and cookies study was led by Dr. Walter Mischel, a co-author of the current study and the Niven Professor of Humane Letters at Columbia University.
Additional authors include Leah H. Somerville, Theresa Teslovich and Nicholas Franklin of Weill Cornell Medical College; Vivian Zayas of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; Gary Glover and Ian H. Gotlib of Stanford University; Ozlem Ayduk of the University of California, Berkeley; Mary Askren, John Jonides and Marc G. Berman of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Yuichi Shoda and Nicole L. Wilson of the University of Washington, Seattle. Funding for this multi-site study was provided by the National Institutes of Health (PI: Yuichi Shoda).
Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.
Climate change threatens mental health too: study
Paris (AFP) Aug 30, 2011
Flooding, drought and superstorms boosted by climate change are not only poised to ravage human habitats but mental health as well, according to Australian researchers. "The damage caused by a changing climate is not just physical," they said in a report released this week by the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Sydney. "Recent experience shows extreme weather events also po ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|