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Journal: Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews


Self-control is the ability to control one’s impulses when faced with challenges or temptations, and is robustly associated with physiological and psychological well-being. Twin studies show that self-control is heritable, but estimates range between 0% and 90%, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. The aim of this study was to perform a meta-analysis to provide a quantitative overview of the heritability of self-control. A systematic search resulted in 31 included studies, 17 reporting on individual samples, based on a sample size of >30,000 twins, published between 1997 and 2018. Our results revealed an overall monozygotic twin correlation of .58, and an overall dizygotic twin correlation of .28, resulting in a heritability estimate of 60%. The heritability of self-control did not vary across gender or age. The heritability did differ across informants, with stronger heritability estimates based on parent report versus self-report or observations. This finding provides evidence that when aiming to understand individual differences in self-control, one should take genetic factors into account. Recommendations for future research are discussed.


Neuronal chloride regulation is a determinant factor for the dynamic tuning of GABAergic inhibition during and beyond brain development. This regulation is mainly dependent on the two co-transporters K+/Cl- co-transporter KCC2 and Na+/K+/Cl- co-transporter NKCC1, whose activity can decrease or increase neuronal chloride concentrations respectively. Altered expression and/or activity of either of these co-transporters has been associated with a wide variety of brain disorders including developmental disorders, epilepsy, schizophrenia and stroke. Here, we review current knowledge on chloride transporter expression and activity regulation and highlight the intriguing potential for existing and future interventions to support chloride homeostasis across a wide range of mental disorders.


Caffeine is consumed by over 80% of U.S. adults. This review examines the effects caffeine has on cognitive and physical function, since most real-world activities require complex decision making, motor processing and movement. Caffeine exerts its effects by blocking adenosine receptors. Following low (∼40mg or ∼0.5 mg·kg(-1)) to moderate (∼300mg or 4 mg·kg(-1)) caffeine doses, alertness, vigilance, attention, reaction time and attention improve, but less consistent effects are observed on memory and higher-order executive function, such as judgement and decision making. Effects on physical performance on a vast array of physical performance metrics such as time-to-exhaustion, time-trial, muscle strength and endurance, and high-intensity sprints typical of team sports are evident following doses that exceed about 200mg (∼3mg·kg(-1)). Many occupations, including military, first responders, transport workers and factory shift workers, require optimal physical and cognitive function to ensure success, workplace safety and productivity. In these circumstances, that may include restricted sleep, repeated administration of caffeine is an effective strategy to maintain physical and cognitive capabilities.

Concepts: Psychology, Decision making, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Cognitive science, Caffeine, Adenosine receptor, Neuropsychological assessment


We conducted a meta-analysis on the available data from studies investigating SERTs in ecstasy users and polydrug using controls. From 7 studies we compared data from 157 ecstasy users and 148 controls across 14 brain regions. The main effect suggested ecstasy/MDMA related SERT reductions (SMD=0.52, 95% CIs [0.40, 0.65]; Z=8.36, p<.01, I(2)=89%). A significant effect of subgroups (X(2)=37.41, df=13, p<.01, I(2)=65.3%) suggested differential effects across brain ROIs. Ecstasy users showed significant SERT reductions in 11 out of the 14 regions, including every neocortical and limbic region analysed. Greatest effects were observed in the occipital cortex (SMD=1.09, 95% CIs [0.70, 1.48]). No group effects were observed in subcortical areas of the caudate, putamen and midbrain. Literature on Postsynaptic 5HT2A receptor imaging was synthesised with these results. We conclude that, in line with preclinical data, serotonin axons with the longest projections from the raphe nuclei appear to be most affected by ecstasy/MDMA use.

Concepts: Neuron, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Serotonin, Raphe nuclei


The effect of carbohydrate (CHO) consumption on mood is much debated, with researchers reporting both mood improvements and decrements following CHO ingestion. As global consumption of sugar-sweetened products has sharply increased in recent years, examining the validity of claims of an association between CHOs and mood is of high importance. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the relationship between acute CHO ingestion and mood. We examined the time-course of CHO-mood interactions and considered the role of moderator variables potentially affecting the CHO-mood relationship. Analysis of 176 effect sizes (31 studies, 1259 participants) revealed no positive effect of CHOs on any aspect of mood at any time-point following their consumption. However, CHO administration was associated with higher levels of fatigue and less alertness compared with placebo within the first hour post-ingestion. These findings challenge the idea that CHOs can improve mood, and might be used to increase the public’s awareness that the ‘sugar rush’ is a myth, inform health policies to decrease sugar consumption, and promote healthier alternatives.


Physically-active video games (‘exergames’) have recently gained popularity for leisure and entertainment purposes. Using exergames to combine physical activity and cognitively-demanding tasks may offer a novel strategy to improve cognitive functioning. Therefore, this systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to establish effects of exergames on overall cognition and specific cognitive domains in clinical and non-clinical populations. We identified 17 eligible RCTs with cognitive outcome data for 926 participants. Random-effects meta-analyses found exergames significantly improved global cognition (g=0.436, 95% CI=0.18 to 0.69, p=0.001). Significant effects still existed when excluding waitlist-only controlled studies, and when comparing to physical activity interventions. Furthermore, benefits of exergames where observed for both healthy older adults and clinical populations with conditions associated with neurocognitive impairments (all p<0.05). Domain-specific analyses found exergames improved executive functions, attentional processing and visuospatial skills. The findings present the first meta-analytic evidence for effects of exergames on cognition. Future research must establish which patient/treatment factors influence efficacy of exergames, and explore neurobiological mechanisms of action.

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Cognition, Educational psychology, Meta-analysis


The role of serotonin in depression and antidepressant treatment remains unresolved despite decades of research. In this paper, we make three major claims. First, serotonin transmission is elevated in multiple depressive phenotypes, including melancholia, a subtype associated with sustained cognition. The primary challenge to this first claim is that the direct pharmacological effect of most symptom-reducing medications, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), is to increase synaptic serotonin. The second claim, which is crucial to resolving this paradox, is that the serotonergic system evolved to regulate energy. By increasing extracellular serotonin, SSRIs disrupt energy homeostasis and often worsen symptoms during acute treatment. Our third claim is that symptom reduction is not achieved by the direct pharmacological properties of SSRIs, but by the brain’s compensatory responses that attempt to restore energy homeostasis. These responses take several weeks to develop, which explains why SSRIs have a therapeutic delay. We demonstrate the utility of our claims by examining what happens in animal models of melancholia and during acute and chronic SSRI treatment.

Concepts: Serotonin, Antidepressant, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Major depressive disorder, Sertraline, Tricyclic antidepressant, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine


Stereotypic behaviours are commonly observed in captive animals and are usually interpreted as a sign of poor welfare. Stereotypies have also been linked with brain abnormalities. However, stereotypies are a heterogeneous class of behaviours and mounting evidence indicates that different stereotypies can have different causes, and can be linked to different affective states. As a consequence, the implications of a specific stereotypy in a specific species cannot be safely inferred from evidence on other stereotypies or species. Here we review what is known about pacing behaviour in laboratory rhesus macaques, a common stereotypy in this species. Our review highlights the current lack of understanding of the causal factors underlying pacing behaviour. According to current knowledge, the welfare of pacing macaques could be either better, worse or equivalent to that of non-pacing individuals. It is also unclear whether pacing results from brain abnormalities. Since rhesus macaques are widely used as a model of healthy humans in neuroscience research, determining if pacing behaviour reflects an abnormal brain and/or poor welfare is urgent.

Concepts: Psychology, Macaque, Philosophy of science, Primate, Rhesus Macaque, Knowledge, Stereotypy, Animal welfare


PRENDERGAST, B.J., K.G. Onishi and I. Zucker. Female mice liberated for inclusion in neuroscience and biomedical research. NEUROSCI BIOBEHAV REV 37(X) XXX-XXX, 2013.- The underrepresentation of female mice in neuroscience and biomedical research is based on the assumption that females are intrinsically more variable than males and must be tested at each of four stages of the estrous cycle to generate reliable data. Neither belief is empirically based. In a meta-analysis of 293 articles, behavioral, morphological, physiological, and molecular traits were monitored in male mice and females tested without regard to estrous cycle stage; variability was not significantly greater in females than males for any endpoint and was substantially greater in males for several traits. Group housing of mice increased variability in both males and females by 37%. Utilization of female mice in neuroscience research does not require monitoring of the estrous cycle. The prevalence of sex differences at all levels of biological organization, and limitations in generalizing findings obtained with males to females, argue for the routine inclusion of female rodents in most research protocols.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Gender, Sex, Gamete, Hermaphrodite, Isogamy


“Food addiction” has become a focus of interest for researchers attempting to explain certain processes and/or behaviors that may contribute to the development of obesity. Although the scientific discussion on “food addiction” is in its nascent stage, it has potentially important implications for treatment and prevention strategies. As such, it is important to critically reflect on the appropriateness of the term “food addiction”, which combines the concepts of “substance based” and behavioral addiction. The currently available evidence for a substance-based food addiction is poor, partly because systematic clinical and translational studies are still at an early stage. We do however view both animal and existing human data as consistent with the existence of addictive eating behavior. Accordingly, we stress that similar to other behaviors eating can become an addiction in thus predisposed individuals under specific environmental circumstances. Here, we introduce current diagnostic and neurobiological concepts of substance-related and non-substance-related addictive disorders, and highlight the similarities and dissimilarities between addiction and overeating. We conclude that “food addiction” is a misnomer because of the ambiguous connotation of a substance related phenomenon. We instead propose the term “eating addiction” to underscore the behavioral addiction to eating; future research should attempt to define the diagnostic criteria for an eating addiction, for which DSM-5 now offers an umbrella via the introduction on Non-Substance-Related Disorders within the category Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.

Concepts: Psychology, Ontology, Addiction, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Compulsive overeating, Overeating