Glucose and the wandering mind: not paying attention or simply out of fuel?

Leonard Birnie, Jonathan Smallwood, Jonathon Reay, Leigh Riby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale/objectives - The impact of raising glycaemia by ingestion of a glucose drink has revealed cognitive facilitation, particularly for memory and attention. This study aimed to extend current knowledge by examining, for the first time, whether glucose load also moderates task-related (TRT) and task-unrelated thoughts (TUT) during activities that vary in their requirement for sustained attention. Method - A 2 (25 g glucose vs. placebo) × 2 (fast vs. slow version of the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART)) repeated measures, counterbalanced design was used with 16 healthy adults. Self-report questionnaires probed participants’ levels of TRT and TUT during SART performance. Prior to testing, the Short Imaginal Processes Inventory (SIPI) was also administered to help pinpoint the nature of thought processes during the task before and after treatment. Results - Analysis of variance revealed no significant effect of treatment; however, we report a pattern of results that is consistent with glucose facilitation effects on task accuracy for more demanding attention tasks (d = 0.56). Additionally, glucose improved the monitoring and task reflection as measured by TRT (d = 0.33) in the more demanding task but no effect on TUT. Probing the nature of thought processes further, we also report two novel correlations (in the placebo) between fears of failure (indexed by the SIPI) and the number of TUT episodes and perceived poor attention control (indexed by the SIPI) and number of TUT and speculate that glucose may act to buffer against TUT episodes under externally demanding situations. Conclusions - These data extend previous research examining the glucose facilitation effect to the processing of internal thought processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2903-2910
Issue number16
Early online date18 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


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