When activity in a certain part of our brain is suppressed our craving for high-calorie foods increases.
Scientists have found that when they temporarily decreased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – the brain network responsible for self-control – participants in a study evaluated high-calorie snacks more positively, paid more attention to appealing images of such foods, and reported stronger urges to eat them than usual.
“We used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation to temporarily suppress the operation of a part of the brain that is involved in inhibition, known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” said Peter Hall, co-author of the study conducted by the University of Waterloo. “This resulted in increased attention to high-calorie food images, as well as stronger cravings for and more consumption of such foods when given an opportunity to sample them.”
“Several lifestyle factors affect the function of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” said Cassandra Lowe, lead author of the study. “For example, aerobic exercise has been shown to enhance it, while lack of sleep and stress can impair it – so there may be a link between these lifestyle factors and overeating via their impacts on the brain.”