'My bladder is full and I can't think!' - Lifespan researcher wins Ig Nobel Prize

September 30, 2011
Peter J. Snyder, Ph.D., vice president of research for Lifespan, received one of 10 Ig Nobel Prize awards during the annual ceremony last night at Harvard University. Snyder, along with his co-authors and colleagues from the University of Melbourne and Yale Medical School, were recognized for their work which found that an acute urge to void the bladder can have the same impact on impairing cognitive function as small amounts of alcohol or sleep deprivation. Credit: Lifespan

Peter J. Snyder, Ph.D., vice president of research for Lifespan, received one of 10 Ig Nobel Prize awards during the annual ceremony last night at Harvard University. Snyder, along with his co-authors and colleagues from the University of Melbourne and Yale Medical School, were recognized for their work which found that an acute urge to void the bladder can have the same impact on impairing cognitive function as small amounts of alcohol or sleep deprivation.

While it sounds unusual, in reality, the findings have important implications for groups such as long-distance truck drivers. These findings also help in efforts to understand the shared neurologic mechanisms that are involved in both and in concentration and problem-solving abilities.

The Ig Nobel Prizes "honor achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology." Administered by Improbable Research, this year marks the 21st"1st Annual Ceremony." Each year, prizes are presented to recipients by past Nobel laureates in a ceremony held at Harvard University.

Snyder and his colleagues' paper, "The Effect of Acute Increase in Urge to Void on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults" was published in 2010 in the journal Neurourology and Urodynamics (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/nau.20963/abstract). It involved eight healthy adults who took part in an experiment in which they consumed 250 milliliters of water every 15 minutes. The researchers then used standardized measures of cognitive function at hourly intervals.

As anticipated, the researchers found that the urge to void and pain increased with time and with amount of water consumed. More importantly, they found that having an extreme urge to void had a negative effect on attention and working . The impact on cognitive function was equivalent to low levels of alcohol intoxication or fatigue, and thus, could increase the risk of accidents in occupational settings. These cognitive functions returned to normal almost immediately after voiding.

Snyder says, "Receiving an Ig Nobel Prize was completely unexpected, but also one of the oddest highlights in my career. When we did the research, we understood that it may seem a bit quirky, but this study really does have important and practical implications for everyday life. I know I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say it was an honor to be among this year's recipients, and we thank Improbable Research for bringing attention to the fact that science can also be fun." Snyder talks more about the study and the award in this video:

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Snyder, who is also a professor of neurology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I., co-authored the paper with Drs. Matthew S. Lewis of CogState Ltd. in Australia, Robert H. Pietrzak of the Department of Psychiatry atYale University School of Medicine in New Haven, C.T.; David Darby of CogState, Ltd.; Robert A. Feldman Urology Specialists, PC in Waterbury, CT, and Paul Maruff of both CogState Ltd. and the Centre for Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Both Drs. Snyder and Feldman were on hand to receive their Ig Nobel Prize on behalf of all co-authors.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

We've all got a blind spot, but it can be shrunk

August 31, 2015

You've probably never noticed, but the human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot. That's because the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain must pass through the retina, which creates a hole in that light-sensitive ...

Biologists identify mechanisms of embryonic wound repair

August 31, 2015

It's like something out of a science-fiction movie - time-lapse photography showing how wounds in embryos of fruit flies heal themselves. The images are not only real; they shed light on ways to improve wound recovery in ...

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hush1
3 / 5 (2) Sep 30, 2011
Founder of Awards congratulated the winners and wish them better luck next year.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.