Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Your Brain On Krispy Kremes: How Hunger Motivates

Date:
March 8, 2008
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
What makes you suddenly dart into the bakery when you spy chocolate-frosted donuts in the window, though you certainly hadn't planned on indulging? As you lick the frosting off your fingers, don't blame a lack of self-control. New research reveals how hunger works in the brain and the way neurons pull your strings to lunge for the sweet fried dough. The research demonstrates how our brain decides what to pay attention to in a world full of stimuli -- not just sweets.

What makes you suddenly dart into the bakery when you spy chocolate- frosted donuts in the window, though you certainly hadn't planned on indulging? As you lick the frosting off your fingers, don't blame a lack of self-control.
Credit: iStockphoto/Dan Chippendale

What makes you suddenly dart into the bakery when you spy chocolate- frosted donuts in the window, though you certainly hadn't planned on indulging? As you lick the frosting off your fingers, don't blame a lack of self-control.

New research from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine reveals how hunger works in the brain and the way neurons pull your strings to lunge for the sweet fried dough.

Krispy Kremes, in perhaps their first starring role in neurological research, helped lead to the discovery. In the study, subjects were tested twice -- once after gorging on up to eight Krispy Kreme donuts until they couldn't eat anymore, and on another day after fasting for eight hours.

In both sessions, people were shown pictures of donuts and screwdrivers, while researchers examined their brains in fMRI's.

When the subjects saw pictures of donuts after the eating binge, their brains didn't register much interest. But after the fast, two areas of the brain leaped into action upon seeing the donuts. First, the limbic brain -- an ancestral part of the brain present in all animals from snakes to frogs to humans -- lit up like fireworks.

"That part of the brain is able to detect what is motivationally significant. It says, not only am I hungry, but here is food," said senior author Marsel Mesulam, M.D., the Ruth and Evelyn Dunbar Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School and a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Next, the brain's spatial attention network shifted the hungry subject's focus toward the new object of desire -- in this case the Krispy Kremes.

"If we didn't have this part of the brain, every time you passed by a bakery you would have no control over your eating," explained Mesulam, who also is director of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Feinberg School. "If your nerve cells fired every time you smelled something edible, then you'd eat all the time, not just when you're hungry."

"There's a very complex system in the brain that helps to direct our attention to items in our environment that are relevant to our needs, for example, food when we are hungry but not when we are full," said Aprajita Mohanty, lead author of the paper and a post-doctoral fellow at the Feinberg School.

Mesulam noted the research demonstrates how our brain decides what to pay attention to in a world full of stimuli -- not just sweets. "If you are in a forest and you hear rustling, the context urges you to pay full attention since this could be a sign of danger," he said. "If you are in your office, the context makes the identical sound less relevant. A major job of the brain is to match response to context."

The study helped Mesulam understand his own behavior. "Now I know why I can't resist walking into the bakery some days when I smell fresh scones," he said.

The study was recently published online in the journal Cerebral Cortex.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Your Brain On Krispy Kremes: How Hunger Motivates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080306113754.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2008, March 8). Your Brain On Krispy Kremes: How Hunger Motivates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080306113754.htm
Northwestern University. "Your Brain On Krispy Kremes: How Hunger Motivates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080306113754.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes

Artificial Sweetener Could Promote Diabetes

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Doctors once thought artificial sweeteners lacked the health risks of sugar, but a new study says they can impact blood sugar levels the same way. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Trial Gets Underway at Oxford University

Ebola Vaccine Trial Gets Underway at Oxford University

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) A healthy British volunteer is to become the first person to receive a new vaccine for the Ebola virus after US President Barack Obama called for action against the epidemic and warned it was "spiralling out of control." Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand

Obesity Rates Steady Even As Americans' Waistlines Expand

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) Researchers are puzzled as to why obesity rates remain relatively stable as average waistlines continue to expand. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins