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Brain region identified that controls collecting behavior

Most people have a collection of some kind at some point in their lives. Indeed, historical studies show that acquiring and retaining objects, even when they are not necessary for survival, is not only nearly universal, but also has been part of human behavior since the earliest human societies. Yet despite the ubiquitous nature of this trait, very little is known about what drives humans to collect.

By studying patients who developed abnormal hoarding behavior following brain injury, neurology researchers in the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A Carver College of Medicine have identified an area in the prefrontal cortex that appears to control collecting behavior. The findings suggest that damage to the right mesial prefrontal cortex causes abnormal hoarding behavior by releasing the primitive hoarding urge from its normal restraints. The study was published online in the Nov. 17 Advance Access issue of the journal Brain.

Hoarding behavior is common among animals; around 70 species hoard and mostly they hoard food, which makes sense from a survival standpoint. Studies of hoarding behavior in rodents have shown that collecting is driven by certain primitive structures deep in the brain and most mammals, including humans, share these subcortical regions.

"But human collecting goes beyond items that are solely useful for survival," said Steven Anderson, Ph.D., UI associate professor of neurology and lead author of the study. "People often collect art or stamps or pretty much anything. Clearly there is some higher structure in humans that modulates the collecting drive and that's what we think we have tapped into."

The UI team studied 86 people with focal brain lesions - very specific areas of brain damage to see if damage to particular brain regions could account for abnormal collecting behavior. Other than the lesions, the patients' brains functioned normally and these patients performed normally on tests of intelligence, reaso
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Contact: Jennifer Brown
jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu
319-335-9917
University of Iowa
15-Dec-2004


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