How to think faster

Want to give yourself a cognitive advantage?

Got a big test? An important meeting? A must-close sales call?

Then go in mildly hungry, not fully sated.

Christopher Shea reports that researchers at Yale Medical School led by Tama Horvath have discovered that hungry mice take in information more quickly and retain it better as well. And these scientists believe that the same is probably true for humans too.

The researchers studied the pathways followed in mouse brains byghrelin, a hormone produced by the stomach lining, when the stomach is empty. According to Shea, the scientists were surprised when,

they found that ghrelin was binding to cells not just in the primitive part of the brain that registers hunger (the hypothalamus) but also in the region that plays a role in learning, memory and spatial analysis (the hippocampus).

The researchers then put mice injected with ghrelin and control mice through a maze and other intelligence tests. In each case, the biochemically ”hungry” mice — mice infused with ghrelin — performed notably betterthan those with normal levels of the hormone.

Horvath says this finding makes sense: “When you are hungry, you need to focus your entire system on finding food in the environment.”

This explains why our thinking abilities seem to deteriorate right after a big meal. This also explains why doing a seminar or speaking right after lunch (or dinner) is such a challenge; I can attest to this from personal experience.

For better thinking, stay hungry!

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