Study: Food cravings may be hardwired into brain; Obese Group Showed Stronger Connection to Brain’s Reward Center

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There is new evidence for the hotly-debated idea you can get hooked on eating, like people get addicted to cocaine or heroin. A study finds cravings may be “hardwired” in the brain. Dr. Holly Phillips joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss the science behind the addiction.

Researchers looked at 81 people; half of the group were obese. The people in the study ate buffet style food and were shown photos of food. The obese group showed a stronger connection to reward centers in the brain — specifically a greater connectivity between the dorsal caudate and the somatosensory cortex by assessing fMRI results. Three months later, the obese group predicted by the connection experienced an 11% weight gain.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) is a functional neuroimaging procedure using MRI technology that measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow.

Food addiction comparison to drug addiction is controversial. Some foods stimulate the brain circuits similar to drugs, but drugs are believed to cause more permanent changes in the brain.

The lead researcher, Oren Contreras-Rodríguez acknowledged that obesity and food addiction is a controversial topic, but that the findings in the study support the idea that the reward process following food stimuli in obesity is associated with neural changes similar to those found in substance addiction.

The research was presented at the Meeting of European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

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