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Why Hoarders Ignore the Mess – Study Finds Clue in Decision Center of Brain

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Ever watch those hoarding shows and wonder, “how the heck do people live like that?”.  Well, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the mind of a hoarder has a hard time deciding what to throw out and what to keep. 

Doctors compared brain scans of 43 hoarders and 33 healthy volunteers.  When the hoarders were asked to make a decision about keeping or shredding papers that did not belong to them, the part of the brain that makes decisions was inactive and they were not able to make a decision about the object’s importance.

BUT, when the hoarders were asked the same “keep or shred” question about a paper that had come from their own home, that area of their brains became wildly hyperactive, to the point where the subjects were overwhelmed and could not make a decision about the fate of the object.

Healthy volunteers in the study had normal activity in this area of the brain in both scenarios and were able to make clear decisions about both types of objects without feeling overwhelmed.

Psychiatrists say the results show two things.  First, that when hoarders are making a decision that has no significance to them, their brains simply ignore it.  This, they say, may explain why hoarders are able to ignore the conditions they are building around themselves and living in.

Secondly, to make a personally important decision, such as whether to keep or let go of an object in their home, causes their brains to go into overload, so hoarders simply avoid making any decision at all.

Doctors say they will use the results of this study to develop new therapies to treat hoarding.

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Annie Jenkins | Create Your Badge

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