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 April 19, 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 April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
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