Snack consumption and BMI are linked to both brain activity and self-control, new research has found.
The research, carried out by academics from the Universities of Exeter, Cardiff, Bristol, and Bangor, discovered that an individual's brain 'reward centre' response to pictures of food predicted how much they subsequently ate. This had a greater effect on the amount they ate than their conscious feelings of hunger or how much they wanted the food,
A strong brain response was also associated with increased weight (BMI), but only in individuals reporting low levels of self-control on a questionnaire. For those reporting high levels of self-control a stronger brain response to food was actually related to a lower BMI.
This study, which is now published in the journal NeuroImage, adds to mounting evidence that overeating and increased weight are linked, in part, to a region of the brain associated with motivation and reward, called the nucleus accumbens. Responses in this brain region have been shown to predict weight gain in healthy weight and obese individuals, but only now have academics discovered that this is independent of conscious feelings of hunger, and that self-control also plays a key role.
Following these results, academics at the University of Exeter and Cardiff have begun testing 'brain training' techniques designed to reduce the influence of food cues on individuals who report low levels of self-control. Similar tests are being used to assist those with gambling or alcohol addiction.1
Dr Natalia Lawrence of Psychology at the University of Exeter, lead researcher in both the original research and the new studies, said: "Our research suggests why some individuals are more likely to overeat and put on weight than others when confronted with frequent images of snacks and treats. Food images, such as those used in advertising, cause direct increases in activity in brain 'reward areas' in some individ
|Contact: Sarah Hoyle|
University of Exeter