Thursday, August 6, 2020

Impulsivity and Horny Rats

            In 1953, James Olds conducted a series of experiments on rats that involved the implantation of electrodes into the hypothalamus of rats. These experiments discovered the pleasure center of the brain and lead to an interesting development into the nature of impulsivity. In one experiment, the rats were given the option between two switches: one supplied the box with food and water and the other stimulated the electrode. The rats almost always chose self-stimulation with some reportedly pressing the button as often as 2000 times for 24 hours. Whether they would have actually starved themselves to death is inconclusive since they were unhooked in fear that they would do so. Judging on this precaution, I’m going to say they probably would have. The rats showed a clear favoritism towards the quicker reward of stimulation rather than debatably more important of food. This favoritism is the central idea behind impulsive choices. It is possible that their value they assigned to their immediate hunger would eventually outweigh the value they placed in the pleasure button but not before reaping consequences for undereating. However, humans are arguably more forward thinking than rats. We can recognize the benefits of later reward that could be far greater than their short term alternative.


  1. I think that's a very interesting study and the first thing that I think comes to mind that relates to this study is drug and alcohol abuse. People are told their entire lives that abusing substances is horrible for your overall health although the impulsive and desire for immediate euphoria continues to draw people in similar to the rats.

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