Research Publication Title

Effects of Aspartame on Impulsivity as Measured by a Delay-Discounting Procedure

Major

Psychology

Faculty Mentor(s)

Kristina L. Dandy

Abstract

Aspartame is a widely used artificial sweetener; many studies have been conducted to understand its physiological effects. Some of aspartame's effects have shown to be maladaptive, correlated with malignant tumors, leukemia, nephrotoxicity, and an over-excitation of insulin receptors (Charumithrra, et al., 2012). Though studies have assessed the adverse effects of aspartame, few studies have focused on behavioral effects of aspartame, namely impulsive behavior, defined as the selection of a smaller but less delayed reinforcer, over a larger but more delayed reinforcer (e.g., Ainslie, 1974). Impulsivity is commonly assessed using delay-discounting procedures (Mazur, 1987). The artificial sweetener saccharin has been shown to increase impulsivity as measured by delay-discounting tasks (Wilhelm, et al., 2007). Therefore, in the present study we are assessing the effects of aspartame exposure on impulsivity using a delay-discounting procedure. Twenty Sprague Dawley rats were randomly assigned to either an aspartame exposure or a control condition. Rats assigned to the aspartame exposure group are receiving a daily dose of 33mg of aspartame. Rats assigned to the control condition are receiving standard food without aspartame. Rats are currently being tested on the delay-discounting task, whereby a single lever press to one lever leads to delivery of one food pellet immediately, whereas a single lever press a second lever leads to delivery of three food pellets after increasing delay. We expect subjects exposed to aspartame will be more impulsive compared to the control group. Findings hold important implications about how commonly used food additives influence biology and behavior.

Start Date

10-4-2015 11:30 AM

End Date

10-4-2015 12:15 PM

Location

HSB 3rd Floor Student Commons

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Apr 10th, 11:30 AM Apr 10th, 12:15 PM

Effects of Aspartame on Impulsivity as Measured by a Delay-Discounting Procedure

HSB 3rd Floor Student Commons

Aspartame is a widely used artificial sweetener; many studies have been conducted to understand its physiological effects. Some of aspartame's effects have shown to be maladaptive, correlated with malignant tumors, leukemia, nephrotoxicity, and an over-excitation of insulin receptors (Charumithrra, et al., 2012). Though studies have assessed the adverse effects of aspartame, few studies have focused on behavioral effects of aspartame, namely impulsive behavior, defined as the selection of a smaller but less delayed reinforcer, over a larger but more delayed reinforcer (e.g., Ainslie, 1974). Impulsivity is commonly assessed using delay-discounting procedures (Mazur, 1987). The artificial sweetener saccharin has been shown to increase impulsivity as measured by delay-discounting tasks (Wilhelm, et al., 2007). Therefore, in the present study we are assessing the effects of aspartame exposure on impulsivity using a delay-discounting procedure. Twenty Sprague Dawley rats were randomly assigned to either an aspartame exposure or a control condition. Rats assigned to the aspartame exposure group are receiving a daily dose of 33mg of aspartame. Rats assigned to the control condition are receiving standard food without aspartame. Rats are currently being tested on the delay-discounting task, whereby a single lever press to one lever leads to delivery of one food pellet immediately, whereas a single lever press a second lever leads to delivery of three food pellets after increasing delay. We expect subjects exposed to aspartame will be more impulsive compared to the control group. Findings hold important implications about how commonly used food additives influence biology and behavior.