Skip to comments.Researchers Find Clues to 'Pack-Rat' Urge
Posted on 12/18/2004 7:05:24 AM PST by MississippiMasterpiece
Attention, pack rats: science may have figured you out. Researchers say they've found an area of the brain that seems to govern the urge to collect.
For most people, collecting is a perfectly healthy behavior. It's an outlet for expressing passion for just about anything, such as stamps, wine, art, shoes, or Elvis memorabilia.
Collecting is also common among animals, and not just for food. It's been observed in creatures great and small, from mammals to insects. For instance, some birds can't resist aluminum and bright objects, while hamsters gather glass beads when given the chance.
But in rare cases, collecting gets out of hand in humans. People have been known to hoard items compulsively -- not out of necessity, appreciation, or financial investment. Abnormal collecting can even disrupt normal life, causing problems for the collector and the people they live with.
Abnormal hoarding behavior following brain injury was recently studied at the University of Iowa's medical school by researchers including Steven Anderson, PhD. All 86 participants had brain lesions. Most cases occurred in adulthood. Despite their brain lesions, participants had normal brain function with normal scores on intelligence, reasoning, and memory tests.
Participants were interviewed about their collecting behavior. To ensure accuracy, the researchers also talked to a close relative of each subject (usually a spouse).
A total of 13 people were classified as "abnormal collectors." They had excessive collections of useless items that began after the brain injury occurred, and they resisted changing their hoarding habits.
The abnormal collectors had something else in common.
"A pretty clear finding jumped out at us," says Anderson, in a news release. "Damage to a part of the frontal lobes of the [brain's] cortex, particularly on the right side, was shared by the individuals with abnormal behavior."
That part of the brain may keep collecting in check. Damage in that brain area may make people lose control over their collecting.
The finding could have wider meaning, says Anderson.
"Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder and some other disorders, such as schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, and certain dementias can have similar pathological collecting behavior," says Anderson, in the news release.
"Our hope is that our findings
will lead to insights in these conditions, as well." The study appears in the January issue of the journal Brain.
He came in and retired one morning with no warning and everyone at work wondered if he had simply wandered off to die.
Yes it is. Now get busy and there will be big rewards in it for you.
As a foil to this discussion, one of my former girlfriends had a whacky New England auntie who was a "packratter" of a kind. Lived in a Rhode Island farmhouse, and became a bit of a recluse except for the local neer-do-well who served as her gardener/handyman/delivery boy in her twilight years.
When she passed away, they found the house was crammed to the rafters with antique New England furniture, paintings, knick knacks, etc. "Junk". The assessed value was several million dollars, and the neer-do-well and the family fought over the estate for years (she'd left two separate conflicting wills).
Have had to reform. Hauling bags back and forth across the Pacific is very limiting on limited income! Giving yet another round of books to the church.
"Packratters can't even let go of a coffee can full of used pencils or an 8-track cassette player."
Right, that's a good definition. It really is a disease. I have a VERY hard time throwing anything away, just because I don't want it any more. If it's broken I can toss it easily. Plastic is the bane of my existance, it almost NEVER breaks. Every few years I will force myself to throw out the big stack of hard plastic drink cups that has grown in my kitchen cabinet. I really wish we still lived in a more bio-degradable world.
There is no excuse.
If you haven't used in the last year, to the trash can it goes.
I have an elderly packratter relative who sends/distributes the ephemera of a lifetime in dribbles to the whole family.
It's ruthless, I suppose, but after a five second review I decide whether it goes on a shelf or in the trash. 90 percent goes to the dump, and I think of it as a favor to the packratter relative who can't do it himself.
*Begins rearranging piles of stuff so they look smaller.*
Seriously, though, I've have an old British motorcycle for a long time, and over the years I've made changes for convenience and comfort, like adding turn signals (safety) and raising the handlebars. It was a "cafe racer" and with the short handlebars it was like riding a jackhammer.
As is, I can probably get around $6,000 - $7,000 for it; but the other day I was told that it would be worth in excess of $30,000 in original condition! However, the box where I kept the original parts has long since been lost or thrown away.
BSA, Triumph, Norton?
Have you checked the online Brit bike shops that are here in the U.S.A.?
I think that there are some books that could help you with this problem.
I just LOVE you, MM! :)
Nothin' wrong with those pencils, either...
I collect matches from various restauants and hotels and conferences I've been to. May not mean much to anybody else, but it brings back memories to me. And maybe I'll need them to light a candle if the power goes out.
Oh, thank God! But can it be eventually cured?
Well, maybe. But, you will have to search out and collect more books to find out.
Cute idea, I like that. Dad collects $1 poker chips.
When I was little, I was big into collecting pencils. My family travelled a lot and I'd pick up a souvneir pencil from wherever we went. Had a bunch of out-of-state pencils from fairs, museums, etc. Then someone stole the collection right form my locker. I was crushed... some of the pencils were really neat, with small stones in them and pressure sensitive pencils and weird shapes and special wood and all that. Dad took it to the principal, the principal thought it was a big joke...