May 17th, 2006

breaking bad

High reward sensitivity

Decided to start investing in Premium Bonds because it's more working class than saving :-) No - actually because there's no paperwork and you don't pay tax on winnings. Won fifty quid = party time! More fun that seeing your interest accumulate in a bank statement.

From the Guardian: a dodgy report of what sounds like an interesting study. There's a big variation at how much people's brains light up at the sight (and no doubt smell, touch or thought) of a pleasurable stimulus. People with 'high reward sensitivity' are inclined to experience a powerful drive to pursue anticipated reward.

Ah. High reward sensitivity. That's the battleground of my life.

But is 'reward sensitivity' (as they imply) a generic feature of the brain itself, which applies across all rewards? I think not, as I am pretty much uninterested in some rewards, like opiates for instance, and much more susceptible to others.

And doesn't this article fall into the oh so familiar trap of implying that if a feature of the mind is reflected in physical attributes f the brain, then this implies it is an innate feature? If the mind is grounded in the brain then any attribute - innate or learned - could show up on a brain scan.
breaking bad

Food cravings

When I was pregnant I craved calcium. I could get through a jar of calcium tablets in a day, and I had to really fight the urge to eat more. I particularly liked Dolomite and oyster shell tablets. I had to be very careful not to get supplements that had any other vitamin in them or I would have overdosed. I used to go to different health food shops so none of them realised how much of the stuff I was getting through.

Anyway, the calcium never did me any harm, and my kids were very big-boned when they were born, so I figured the craving was functional (or semi-functional anyway).

When I was anaemic I used to crave flax seed. I got through masses of that stuff. This is called 'pica', and it isn't functional. I mean that the stuff you crave doesn't help the condition - there's very little iron in flax, though it's actually quite nutritious in other ways. I realise that I must have been ill with anaemia for years and years. I took a lot of iron before I had my operation, and I lost the pica.

Today I found out about Pagophagia, which is another variant of anaemic pica - compulsive Ice Chewing. There's a bulletin board for ice-lovers. Metafilter discussion here.

If you have a food craving like this my recommendation is take iron tablets (in sensible amounts) for a few weeks and see if it helps. Pica can be a symptom of stress or OCD though, so obviously if that may be the case that's worth seeking help for too.

Ever had a craving, and do you think it may have been a response to anaemia?
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