You know how some people are always on the edge of losing their shit? Seemingly on the verge of an orgy of anger every time something goes just a little bit different than they wanted? Besides just being general douchebags, some of them are probably only lacking a little serotonin, otherwise known as the happiness hormone.
When serotonin is released in our brains, we get a feeling of well-being and contentment. Pretty sweet, right? Unfortunately, some people have naturally low serotonin levels, or the serotonin receptors in their brains are not as active. Unable to feel the same sense of contentment, they become prone to anger-management issues, or worse, massive depression.
Or even worse, hulking it up.
By bumping serotonin levels, we can hopefully take the edge off our impulsive, angry urges. And the cure might be just as easy as a diet fix. Even better, that diet fix could be a nice helping of delicious turkey.
For our bodies to make serotonin, which is what keeps us happy and reduces impulsive behavior, we need tryptophan, which also happens to be uber present in foods such as chocolate and poultry. Our diet is actually the only way our bodies can get the raw materials they need to make serotonin, which explains why people are grumpier when they haven't eaten.
To test their hypothesis, researchers were able to use dietary changes to lower the serotonin levels of otherwise normal people. Then they made them play a fairness game. Subjects were told they could split a pot of money with their partners any way they saw fit. If the partner accepted the proposed split, they both got the money; if the partner rejected it, they both got nothing.
Which doesn't explain why our traditional post-Thanksgiving Monopoly game was always so vicious.
Volunteers with lower serotonin levels were at least 50 percent more likely to reject the split, even if it meant walking away empty-handed. In other words, they let their impulsive anger urges get the better of them.
P.S. -- All of this finally explains why people who eat turkey legs at the Renaissance Faire are so damn chipper.
When it comes to alcoholism, there are a few things we've known for a while: One, kids of alcoholics are four times as likely to become alcoholics themselves. And two, 50 years ago alcoholism was the shit.
So now that scientists are on the whole alcoholism-is-a-little-bit-genetic bandwagon, the trick is figuring out which genes are the culprits and how to fix them. Sounds easy until you find out that some researchers are claiming the root cause isn't just a single gene, but an entire network of party-hearty bastards, all working together to turn people into drunks.
For instance, Chromosome 11, which research indicates is linked to alcohol dependence, contains a whopping 1,500 genes. So narrowing alcoholism to that one chromosome is kind of like the government saying that it's narrowed Osama bin Laden's location to "Asia."
He's there. Go get him!
Still, of everything on this list, alcoholism is the one thing researchers seem to have a cure boner for, so hopefully it's just a matter of time until it's ...
It looks like we might eventually have a few options. In one study, scientists figured out that a lack of dopamine receptors (remember those?) will cause the brains of alcohol drinkers to fundamentally change after long-term drinking. In other words, people whose brains have a normal pleasure and reward system can drink and their brains stay the same. But the brains of people who are missing those dopamine receptors will actually undergo biochemical changes that only reinforce addiction to alcohol.
Or addiction to flickering neon signage.
Which means that just screening potential drinkers for dopamine receptors might be the quickest and easiest way to prevent alcoholism.
Another group of scientists did even better. They discovered a gene that causes people to be especially sensitive to alcohol, which renders them less likely to drink heavily and become alcoholics. And an altogether different team of researchers is attempting to alter people's serotonin receptors to reduce their booze cravings in the first place.
Finally, the news you've been waiting for: A drug that has already been FDA-approved as a muscle relaxant has shown promise in suppressing the drinking habits of rats previously trained to imbibe copious amounts of alcohol. So these alcoholic rats were given medicine that gave them the willpower to turn away from the hooch and turn their lives around. Humans are not rats, obviously (you don't have to spend 20 years convincing rats they have a problem just to get them to take the medicine), but it's a start.
"YOU JUST DON'T LIKE SEEING ME HAVE A GOOD TIME."
Check out Dennis's musings on human behavior here.
And be sure to pick up our NYT bestselling book because it cures illiteracy
And find out how you got these flaws in 7 Life Altering Decisions Made For You (Before Your Birth). Or learn about how science will cure the biggest flaw of all: death -- in 5 Ways Science Could Make Us Immortal.
And stop by Linkstorm to learn how science cure your addiction to Cheetos.
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