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Cambridge University Science Magazine

The effect of domperidone is to stabilise the rhythm of electrical signals in the stomach muscles – signals which can cause involuntary vomiting if strongly disrupted by powerful feelings of revulsion. In the study, some volunteers were given domperidone while others received a placebo, and they were then shown a selection of disgusting and neutral images. At a certain point in the study, the volunteers were given a monetary incentive for spending longer looking at the disgusting images. The researchers found that, in the round of testing after the incentive was applied, volunteers who had been given domperidone spent significantly longer than the placebo group looking at the disgusting images.

“We've shown that by calming the rhythms of our stomach muscles using anti-nausea drugs, we can help reduce our instinct to look away from a disgusting image,” explained Professor Tim Dalgleish, one of the researchers from the MRC Unit, “but just using the drug itself isn't enough: overcoming disgust avoidance requires us to be motivated or incentivised. This could provide us with clues on how we can help people overcome pathological disgust clinically, which occurs in a number of mental health conditions and can be disabling.”

Zak Lakota-Baldwin is a 4th year History and Philosophy of Science undergraduate, and News Editor at BlueSci.