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Journal Article

Short-Term Fasting Selectively Influences Impulsivity in Healthy Individuals

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Howard, M., Roiser, J., Gilbert, S., Burgess, P., Dayan, P., & Serpell, L. (2020). Short-Term Fasting Selectively Influences Impulsivity in Healthy Individuals. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11: 1644, pp. 1-11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01644.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-DA8D-6
Previous research has shown that short-term fasting in healthy individuals is associated with changes in risky decision-making. The current experiment was designed to examine the influence of short-term fasting in healthy individuals on four types of impulsivity: reflection impulsivity, risky decision-making, delay aversion, and action inhibition. Participants were tested twice, once when fasted for 20 h, and once when satiated. Participants demonstrated impaired action inhibition when fasted; committing significantly more errors of commission during a food-related Affective Shifting Task. Participants also displayed decreased reflection impulsivity when fasted, opening significantly more boxes during the Information Sampling Task (IST). There were no significant differences in performance between fasted and satiated sessions for risky decision-making or delay aversion. These findings may have implications for understanding eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa (BN). Although BN has been characterized as a disorder of poor impulse control, inconsistent findings when comparing individuals with BN and healthy individuals on behavioral measures of impulsivity question this characterization. Since individuals with BN undergo periods of short-term fasting, the inconsistent findings could be due to differences in the levels of satiation of participants. The current results indicate that fasting can selectively influence performance on the IST, a measure of impulsivity previously studied in BN. However, the results from the IST were contrary to the original hypothesis and should be replicated before specific conclusions can be made.