ADHD may have evolved to give us foraging superpowers

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FACT: ADHD may have evolved to make us better at picking berries

By means of Rachel Feltman

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently announced this an investigation into the potential evolutionary benefits of ADHD. They analyzed data from 457 adults who played an online foraging game, where the goal was to collect as many berries as possible within eight minutes.

Players can choose to continue collecting berries from the bushes in their original location, or move to a new patch. (This sounds a lot like one, by the way game I used to play on Neopets!) Moving would cost them a short break, and there was no guarantee that the plot would have as many berries as their current location, but the number of berries you could get from each bush decreased each time you foraged on it again.

Along with the game, subjects also took part in a study to assess whether they had symptoms of ADHD. This did not constitute a full or formal diagnosis, but screened for characteristics such as concentration problems.

When the researchers compared the study results to the gaming statistics, they found that people with ADHD symptoms played differently (and more effectively) than their peers. They were more likely to move to a different bush and collect an average of 602 berries compared to 521.

I probably don't need to tell you that this isn't exactly a perfect model for actual foraging. The researchers hope to conduct a similar experiment with personal foraging in the future, using people with a formal ADHD diagnosis as test subjects, but that would obviously be a much more complicated experiment to conduct.

But this isn't the first study to suggest that ADHD traits and other forms of neurodiversity may have evolved to help our ancestors survive. Other studies have examined differences in the way people with ADHD cope search for information or objects and found that we spend more time in the 'explore' phase of foraging than in the 'exploit' phase. There is even ongoing research into this suggest that children with ADHD are less susceptible Unpleasant inattention bias.

In 2008, researchers discovered that members of a nomadic group in Kenya were associated with gene mutations ADHD had better health than average, while those same mutations were linked to malnutrition in closely related people who lived as farmers. There is a broad idea known as the hunter versus farmer hypothesis that relates to this phenomenon. The idea is that the hyperfocus associated with ADHD was actually a very useful trait back when humans spent their days hunting and foraging. It is much less useful in agricultural and industrialized life. A 1998 study found that adults with self-reported ADHD were much more able to postpone eating, sleeping and other personal needs in order to focus on an urgent task, such as a last-minute deadline. That's a mentality that would have come in handy when faced with unpredictable food acquisitions, such as the sudden appearance of a herd of mammoths or an unexpected abundance of berries.

Some researchers have even suggested so sugar can cause symptoms of hyperactivity because the fructose tricks our brains into thinking we've encountered a food bounty and should look for more berries.

While much more research needs to be done on this topic, this study is an important reminder that our The current sense of what is 'good' and what is 'normal' is quite arbitrary– and that reframing these ideas can yield really cool insights into why people actually are the way they are. And according to some collectors, these findings are certainly no surprise.

FACT: Venus is Earth's evil twin

By means of Knimbay

Join me on a fascinating journey into the depths of the mysteries of Venus. From the Elden Ring DLC ​​to the mythological appeal of Venus and her long-standing status as a scientific enigma, my contribution to this week's episode dances between realms of curious tangents, gender-fluid anatomy, and fantasy. As we explore the dual nature of Venus and delve into the origins of both factual and fictional stories, listeners are invited to ponder the cosmic wonders that await (and hopefully be revealed) beyond the confines of Earth in the Shadow of the Erdtree). With warmth and perhaps too much matcha, we navigate the intersection of myth and science and embrace the magic of research.

If this week's episode leaves you hungry for more Venus-related science, check out NASA's content on the topic:

FACT: People think this lotion attracts spiders en masse, but the truth is more complicated than that

By means of Jess Boddy

At the end of last year, people were all confused because of the lotion spiders. Yes, the lotion spiders. Someone left a review on Sephora's website about a specific type of lotion: the Delícia Drench body butter from the company Sol de Janeiro. Here is that review.

ADHD may have evolved to give us foraging superpowers 2

This wasn't the only review stating that this lotion attracted spiders; there were a handful. And then the unspeakable happened… People posted the reviews on Reddit. The news about lotion spiders spread like wildfire. People began conducting their own “home experiments,” where they spread the lotion on tissues and watched to see if spiders appeared. Almost everyone came to the same conclusion: this lotion attracts wolf spiders.

However, scientists aren't so sure. Listen to this week's episode to find out the scientific truth about this potentially spider-attracting beauty product — and whether there are others you should avoid if you're afraid of arachnids. (Spoiler: It's complicated.)

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