Researchers have found a brain pathway linked to impulsive behaviours

on 28 January 2019
lay back and relax

The brain is an amazing piece of kit if you know how to use it. Sadly, it seems, many people's brain's use them, a consequence of the way our brain encodes experience, especially in those formative years . . . . 

Surprisingly unsurprising!

While this research has apparently led to a significant advance in discovering the role and route of impulsive behaviour, what is not so surprising, if only to me, is that the amygdala passed on the information to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). The role of the amygdala has, in part, been identified as dealing with known and certain threats, the kind of things, that if you don't act quickly, you may never act at all; death or permanent disability, being the perceived consequence. The BNST, on the other hand, deals with things that are more uncertain and/or slow or drip fed. An example of a drip feed scenario would be cumulative trauma!

Impulsive behaviour, primarily seen as within the remit of the archetypal ADHD sufferer, is not theirs alone, any of us can suffer from impulsivity and being chronically stressed is a sure fire way to up the anti and lose control. Of course, the ADHD sufferer is just, on average, a little more predisposed to impulsiveness than the rest of us. All the more their need to manage their condition. Some do it through medication, some have some success with a tailored diet (or a combination of both) and some are able to manage most of their symptoms through diet and effective mind management.

One of the major areas of the brain, affected by ADHD, is the prefrontal cortex. Basically, the more they focus, the less focused they become, a consequence of overstimulation in parts of this critical brain region. It is also a part of the brain that is affected when we are chronically stressed and two regions (among others) that are involved in this disruption, because of stress hormones, are the amygdala and the BNST. So, when an unexpected anomaly is introduced to the amygdala, it simply passes it on to that part of the brain that deals more effectively with anomalies!

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to be more mindful, more relaxed and more proactive in the pursuit of a fun life. In that context, I make it a point to emphasize that happiness is not so much a consequence of the absence of stress and anxiety but rather the presence of peace, calm and relaxation. While this may seem obvious, the way people speak and, generally, use language, their focus is overwhelmingly on the absence of the negative, rather than the presence of the positive. Happiness is better understood as the ambient state of our cells, i.e. are they at war or at peace. When we are at peace (like a country) we prosper, we have a good balance sheet (good health), we have an abundance of resources (good energy and fitness). When we are at war, we eventually suffer from poor health, low energy and poor performance. 

However, there are many things we can do to tip the balance in our favour and hypnotherapy is but one of the many things we can do; it just happens to be, in my experience, one the most effective and, in terms of a cost-benefit ratio, will get you to where you want to be quicker and with far more bang for your buck than many other methods. Primarily this is a consequence of the unique way our brain organises itself while we sleep or, are in mindful states. The tool we use for this to bring about this transformation is hypnosis and the therapeutic result is a consequence of what is done while the client is in this state of structured mindfulness. So, to be in the position of managing your mind, instead of it managing you; try hypnotherapy!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little sleep and too little by way of clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious mind's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want to make your life feel better,  then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

The objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into irrational emotional experiences that may actually be happening for reasons different to that which we would imagine! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy can help you; why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here or to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research: 

Using mice, the research team led by Professor George Augustine from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), discovered that impulsive behaviour is triggered when the brain signalling chemical dopamine is passed to an unexpected area of their brain.

The full route that dopamine signals take to produce an impulsive action has not previously been understood. To trace its pathway, Prof Augustine and his team used mice that had a specific set of dopamine receptors ("D2 receptors") genetically removed, effectively making their brains unable to detect dopamine signals.

The researchers artificially activated these receptors in specific parts of the brain, and the mice displayed impulsive behaviour when the signal was picked up by the amygdala -- an almond-like structure deep in the brain.

What came next surprised the researchers: the amygdala's dopamine receptors in turn passed on the 'dopamine baton' to neurons that connect it with the 'bed nucleus of the stria terminalis' or BNST, a brain area not previously known to be involved in this pathway.

The BNST is a complex brain structure that orchestrates emotional and behavioural responses to stress. Its position in the pathway for impulsive behaviour is a new potential target for pharmaceutical developers, which could, in turn, lead to new treatments to manage this and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

"We have shown for the first time that impulsive behaviour in mice is only triggered when dopamine signals are received and passed on to an unexpected part of the brain -- from the amygdala to the BNST," said Prof Augustine, a neuroscientist at NTU Singapore's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine).

"This research shows that the amygdala serves as a key staging post in the dopamine pathway that triggers impulsive behaviour and confirms the role dopamine plays in regulating impulsivity," he said.

The research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), last November, was conducted by Professor Augustine in collaboration with Professor Ja-Hyun Baik and colleagues from the Korea University. Researchers from Korea Institute of Science and Technology, and Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) were also part of the team.

Commenting on the discovery, Assoc Prof Ong Say How, Senior Consultant and Chief, Department of Developmental Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health Singapore, who was not involved in the research, said:

"This new finding potentially could usher in novel pharmacological treatments that specifically target the Dopamine D2 receptors located in the central amygdala and the BNST region, bringing about reductions in impulsivity and impulsive behaviours commonly seen in wide-ranging psychiatric conditions and disorders including conduct, anti-social and impulsive-control disorders. Reductions in impulsivity also imply more fore-planning and less risk-taking behaviours that often lead to accidental injuries as well as social, financial and legal problems later in life."

Prof Augustine plans to investigate further into the properties of the amygdala-to-BNST pathway, in order to pave the way for developing therapeutic strategies for controlling impulsive and compulsive behaviour.

"Through identification of a novel brain circuit for impulsivity we hope to encourage new research into treatment options for other neuropsychiatric disorders such as bipolar and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and even depression," added Prof Augustine.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Nanyang Technological UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Bokyeong Kim, Sehyoun Yoon, Ryuichi Nakajima, Hyo Jin Lee, Hee Jeong Lim, Yeon-Kyung Lee, June-Seek Choi, Bong-June Yoon, George J. Augustine, Ja-Hyun Baik. Dopamine D2 receptor-mediated circuit from the central amygdala to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis regulates impulsive behaviourProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 115 (45): E10730 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1811664115

Cite This Page:

Nanyang Technological University. "Brain pathway linked to impulsive behaviours." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 2019. <>