Researchers found that people who say they are addicted to chocolate or pizza may not be exaggerating.
A brain scan study of normal, hungry people showed their brains lit up when they saw and smelled their favorite foods in much the same way as the brains of cocaine addicts when they think about their next snort.
"Food presentation significantly increased metabolism in the whole brain (by 24 percent) and these changes were largest in superior temporal, anterior insula, and orbitofrontal cortices," they wrote.
These areas are associated with addiction. For instance, the orbitofrontal cortex has been seen to activate in cocaine users when they think about the drug.
The study, published in the April issue of the journal NeuroImage, may support the argument that food advertising is helping drive the U.S. obesity epidemic, report reuters.co.uk
Everyone knows that seeing food can trigger the innate drive to eat, and now scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified the brain network involved in this process - and hope the finding can ultimately explain why so many people overeat.
Dr. Gene-Jack Wang and his colleagues at the Upton laboratory brought 12 hungry, average- sized adults into the lab and showed them 10 favorite foods one at a time over a two-day testing period. The volunteers could see, smell and talk about the food in front of them, but no eating was allowed. (They hadn't eaten for at least 17 hours.) A cotton swab introduced the taste of the food onto their tongues.
Minutes later, they were hooked to a brain scan. The areas of the brain activated are those that regulate drive and motivation, suggesting that stimulating these brain regions drives a person to seek (and consume) food. All said they were hungrier after seeing their favorite foods, which was confirmed by the brain activity in the scans.
According to Wang, the area that controls taste, which sits close to the ear in the brain's somatosensory cortex, became active, as well as the anterior insula, an area behind the eye thought to control appetite. The scientists were most excited by activation in the orbitofrontal cortex, in the front of the brain. This area is rich in dopamine and regulates pleasurable behavior, such as eating, inform newsday.com
According to news-medical.net the researchers found that food stimulation significantly increased whole brain metabolism. Metabolism was higher in all regions of the brain examined, except for the occipital cortex, which controls vision and would not be affected. The areas most affected were the superior temporal, anterior insula, and orbitofrontal cortices. Food stimulation also resulted in increases in self-reports of hunger and desire for food. Increases in metabolism in the right orbitofrontal cortex were the ones that were most significantly correlated with increased reports of hunger.