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Defecatory urge increases cognitive control and intertemporal patience in healthy volunteers

Zhao, D.; Corsetti, M.; Moeini-Jazani, M.; Weltens, N; Tuk, M.; Tack, J.; Warlop, L.; Van Oudenhove, L.

Defecatory urge increases cognitive control and intertemporal patience in healthy volunteers Thumbnail


D. Zhao

Clinical Associate Professor

M. Moeini-Jazani

N Weltens

M. Tuk

J. Tack

L. Warlop

L. Van Oudenhove


Background: Past research has demonstrated that moderate urge to urinate improves inhibitory control, specifically among participants with higher behavioral inhibition sensitivity (BIS). The effect was absent when the urge exceeded intolerable level. The present research examines whether rectal distension-induced urge to defecate has similar effects.

Methods: The moderate and high defecatory urge were induced by rectal distension in healthy volunteers (n=35), while they completed Stroop task and monetary delay discounting task. The difference of average reaction time between incongruent and congruent trials in the Stroop task (Stroop interference) and the preference for larger-later rewards in the delay discounting task were the primary outcomes.

Key Results: Participants with high BIS (n=17) showed greater ability to inhibit their automatic response tendencies, as indexed by their Stroop interference, under moderate urge relative to no urge (128±41 ms vs. 202±37 ms, t64=2.07; p=0.021, Cohen’s d: 0.44), but not relative to high urge (154±45 ms, t64=1.20; p=0.12, Cohen’s d: 0.30). High BIS participants also showed a higher preference for larger-later reward in the delay discounting task under high (odds ratio = 1.51 [1.02–2.25], p=0.039) relative to no urge, but not relative to moderate urge (odds ratio = 1.02 [0.73–1.42], p = 0.91). In contrast, rectal distension did not influence performance on either of the tasks in participants with low BIS (n=18).

Conclusions and inference: These findings may be interpreted as a ‘spill-over’ effect of inhibition of the urge to defecate to volitional cognitive control among healthy participants with high BIS.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 4, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 16, 2019
Publication Date 2019-07
Deposit Date Apr 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 17, 2020
Journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility
Print ISSN 1350-1925
Electronic ISSN 1365-2982
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 7
Article Number e13600
Keywords Defecatory urge; Gut-brain axis; Inhibitory control; Rectal barostat
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Zhao, D, Corsetti, M, Moeini‐Jazani, M, et al. Defecatory urge increases cognitive control and intertemporal patience in healthy volunteers. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019;e13600, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


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