Did you know that some people can refrain from unhealthy food temptations more than others? Well, it’s true! New research even finds that the difference could be seen in brain waves.
Rich Lopez, a doctoral student at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Dartmouth College, and his team of researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to evaluate particular areas of the brain. In these scans, they were looking for activity levels that could indicate certain behavior. In particular, they looked at activity in a section of the brain linked with reward and pleasure known as the nucleus accumbens. They also examined another area of the brain called the inferior frontal gyrus, which deals with self-control.
The researchers used 31 female volunteers because, according to Lopez, they wanted to evaluate whether a connection could be found that would link cravings to brain activity. That being said, later studies in this field will probably include men and women to understand potential gender differences.
The participants were administered fMRI scans as they were simultaneously shown different pictures. Half of these images consisted of high-calorie and high-fat foods, while the other images included things like other people and nature environments.
During the following week, participants got a text message multiple times each day on their phones that requested a self-report of all their food desires and updated eating activities. If they experienced a craving, they were asked to describe what it was, along with its intensity and whether the women gave in to it.
The women who had significant levels of brain activity in the reward section of their brains had a more difficult time with powerful food cravings and were more apt to give in to them. What’s more, people who had lots of brain activity in the self-control area were better at successfully countering temptations. People with low levels of brain activity in the self-control area were a whopping 8.2 times more apt to be subdued by their cravings than women with higher brain activity, the study concluded.
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