the binge-eating files » Brain, neuroscience

The brain and eating disorders, obesity, addiction, weight, dieting and mental health

World’s largest childhood trauma study uncovers brain rewiring   ScienceDaily (Feb 5, 2024) – The world’s largest brain study of childhood trauma has revealed how it affects development and rewires vital pathways. The study uncovered a disruption in neural networks involved in self-focus and problem-solving. This means under-18s who experienced abuse may struggle with emotions, empathy and understanding their bodies.  … more

Scientists tricked our brains into craving ultraprocessed foods – and now people are fighting back  Globe and Mail (Jan 17, 2024) by Gayle MacDonald — Until recently I thought I was making wise choices about food. My cupboards are full of products touted as “natural, “healthy” and “organic,” with packaging that promises they are “low in sodium,” contain “no trans fat” and put “fibre first.”  Then I started to hear more about the hidden dangers of ultraprocessed foods (UPFs) and I thought I’d better take a closer look in my pantry and fridge. Turns out I’m not so smart after all. … more

Scientist discovers potential brain link between stress, emotional eating   ScienceDaily (Nov 27, 2023) — Molecule may connect threatening events with the desire to overeat high-fat foods. Scientists describe how they identified a molecule that may trigger over-consumption of comfort foods after a threatening event…. more

Dieting: Brain amplifies signal of hunger synapses: Possible target for drugs to combat the yo-yo effect   ScienceDaily (Mar 24, 2023) — Many people who have dieted are familiar with the yo-yo effect: after the diet, the kilos are quickly put back on. Researchers have now shown in mice that communication in the brain changes during a diet: The nerve cells that mediate the feeling of hunger receive stronger signals, so that the mice eat significantly more after the diet and gain weight more quickly. In the long term, these findings could help developing drugs to prevent this amplification and help to maintain a reduced body weight after dieting. … more

Scientists propose that obesity is a neurodevelopmental disorder   ScienceDaily (Sept 29, 2022) — A team of researchers reports that molecular mechanisms of brain development during early life are likely a major determinant of obesity risk. … more

Cravings for fatty foods traced to gut-brain connection   ScienceDaily (Sept 7, 2022) — Mouse research reveals fat sensors in the intestines that stimulate the brain and drive food desires. A dieter wrestling with cravings for fatty foods might be tempted to blame their tongue: the delicious taste of butter or ice cream is hard to resist. But new research investigating the source of our appetites has uncovered an entirely new connection between the gut and the brain that drives our desire for fat. … more

Simply looking at food triggers inflammation in the brain, can impair health in overweight people   Gut Health News (July 5, 2022) by Matt Higgins  … Researchers from the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel report the sight and smell of food triggers an insulin release. The insulin release depends on a short-term inflammatory response. When this happens in overweight people, the inflammatory response is so excessive it can impair insulin secretion. … more

Brain networks can play role in weight-loss success   ScienceDaily (May 3, 2022) — When it comes to weight loss, the old adage it’s all in your head may be true. Scientists have shown that two specific networks in the brain can strongly influence how successful a person will be when trying to lose weight. … more

New clues in the brain linking pain and food   ScienceDaily (Feb 11, 2022) —  Researchers may have found an explanation in a new study that suggests that circuitry in the brain responsible for motivation and pleasure is impacted when someone experiences pain. … more

Diets Make You Feel Bad. Try Training Your Brain Instead.  New York Times (Jan 3, 2022) by Tara Parker-Pope – The new Eat Well Challenge will show you how to reshape your eating habits without dieting. Here’s a New Year’s resolution you can keep: Stop dieting and start savoring your food instead. …  there’s mounting scientific evidence to suggest that diets don’t work … that food restriction just makes you want to eat more … dieting can backfire, triggering your body’s survival defenses, slowing your metabolism and making it even harder to lose weight in the future. A resolution to quit dieting doesn’t mean giving up on having a healthier body. … more

Sugar not so nice for your child’s brain development, study suggests.  ScienceDaily (Mar 31, 2021) – New research has shown in a rodent model that daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during adolescence impairs performance on a learning and memory task during adulthood. The group further showed that changes in the bacteria in the gut may be the key to the sugar-induced memory impairment. … more

Genetic risk of developing obesity is driven by variants that affect the brain   ScienceDaily (Sept 29, 2020) – Some people are at higher risk of developing obesity because they possess genetic variants that affect how the brain processes sensory information and regulates feeding and behavior. The findings support a growing body of evidence that obesity is a disease whose roots are in the brain. … more

World first study links obesity with reduced brain plasticity   ScienceDaily (Sept 24, 2020) – A A world-first study has found that severely overweight people are less likely to be able to re-wire their brains and find new neural pathways, a discovery that has significant implications for people recovering from a stroke or brain injury. … more

How neurons reshape inside body fat to boost its calorie-burning capacity   ScienceDaily (July 22, 2020) – There’s no doubt that you can lose fat by eating less or moving more — yet after decades of research, the biology underlying this equation remains mysterious. What really ignites the breakdown of stored fat molecules are nerves embedded in the fat tissue, and a new study now reveals that these fat-burning neurons have previously unrecognized powers. If they receive the right signal, they have an astonishing capacity to grow. … more

Brain-to-gut connections traced   ScienceDaily  (May 18, 2020) – Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute have traced neural pathways that connect the brain to the stomach, providing a biological mechanism to explain how stress can foster ulcer development. … more

A gut-to-brain circuit drives sugar preference and may explain sugar cravings   ScienceDaily (Apr 15, 2020) – The sensation of sweetness starts on the tongue, but sugar molecules also trip sensors in the gut that directly signal the brain. This could explain why artificial sweeteners fail to satisfy the insatiable craving for sugar. A little extra sugar can make us crave just about anything, from cookies to condiments to coffee smothered in whipped cream. But its sweetness doesn’t fully explain our desire. Instead, new research shows this magic molecule has a back channel to the brain. … more

Study finds dopamine, biological clock link to snacking, overeating and obesity   ScienceDaily (Jan 3, 2020) – A new study finds that the pleasure center of the brain and the brain’s biological clock are linked, and that high-calorie foods — which bring pleasure — disrupt normal feeding schedules, resulting in overconsumption. … more

Move Your Body, Bolster Your Brain  New York Times (Dec 20, 2019)  by Gretchen Reynolds – Exercise doesn’t just strengthen your muscles, it can also be good for your mind and memory … What’s good for your muscles can also be good for your mind.  A single, moderate workout may immediately change how our brains function and how well we recognize common names and similar information, according to a promising new study of exercise, memory and aging. The study adds to growing evidence that exercise can have rapid effects on brain function and also that these effects could accumulate and lead to long-term improvements in how our brains operate and we remember. … more

Researchers discover brain circuit linked to food impulsivity: This creates the possibility scientists can someday develop therapeutics to address overeating   ScienceDaily (Dec 11, 2019) – A team of researchers has now identified a specific circuit in the brain that alters food impulsivity. … more

High-fat diets affect your brain, not just your physical appearance   ScienceDaily (Sept 9, 2019) – Much research has pointed to how an unhealthy diet correlates to obesity, but has not explored how diet can bring about neurological changes in the brain. A recent study has discovered that high-fat diets contribute to irregularities in the hypothalamus region of the brain, which regulates body weight homeostasis and metabolism. … more

Gut-brain connection helps explain how overeating leads to obesity   ScienceDaily (Aug 12, 2019) – A multi-institutional team reveals a previously unknown gut-brain connection that helps explain how those extra servings lead to weight gain. Eating extra servings typically shows up on the scale later, but how this happens has not been clear. A new study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by a multi-institutional team led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine reveals a previously unknown gut-brain connection that helps explain how those extra servings lead to weight gain…. more

Obesity: How diet changes the brain and promotes overeating   MNT Medical News Today (June 28, 2019) by Yella Hewings-Martin PhD – Scientists have implicated specific neurons in the lateral hypothalamic area, a region involved in survival mechanisms such as food intake, in signaling to the brain when to stop eating. This mechanism is impaired in obese mice. … more

Obesity linked with differences in form and structure of the brain   ScienceDaily (Apr 23, 2019) – Researchers using sophisticated MRI technology have found that higher levels of body fat are associated with differences in the brain’s form and structure, including smaller volumes of gray matter, according to a new study. The findings add important information to our understanding of the connection between obesity and negative health consequences such as dementia. … more

Identity crisis of satiety neurons leads to obesity  ScienceDaily (Jan 31, 2019) – Obesity — as research in the past decade has shown — is first and foremost a brain disease. Researchers have discovered a molecular switch that controls the function of satiety neurons and therefore body weight. … more

Gut sense: Neural superhighway conveys messages from gut to brain in milliseconds   ScienceDaily (Sept 20, 2018) – If you’ve ever felt nauseous before an important presentation, or foggy after a big meal, then you know the power of the gut-brain connection.… more

The link between obesity, the brain, and genetics  ScienceDaily (Aug 28) – Clinicians should consider how the way we think can make us vulnerable to obesity, and how obesity is genetically intertwined with brain structure and mental performance, according to new research … more

These neurons may ‘tell us’ to keep eating, even when we are full   MNT Medical News Today (Aug 23, 2017) by Ana Sandoiu –  New research identifies appetite-controlling brain cells in mice that are likely to exist in humans, too. The findings may have significant implications for people with eating disorders.more

Found: A destructive mechanism that blocks the brain from knowing when to stop eating  ScienceDaily (Aug 22, 2018) – Researchers have uncovered a destructive mechanism at the molecular level that causes a well-known phenomenon associated with obesity: leptin resistance. They found that mice fed a high-fat diet produce an enzyme named MMP-2 that clips receptors for the hormone leptin from the surface of neuronal cells in the hypothalamus. This blocks leptin from binding to its receptors. This in turn keeps the neurons from signaling that your stomach is full and you should stop eating … more

Your brain anatomy may play a role in determining your food choices  ScienceDaily (Jun 21, 2018) – Grey matter volume in two brain regions predicts selection of healthful food or tasty but unwholesome cuisine, study shows. Our indulgence in delicious but unhealthful food may not necessarily reveal a character flaw. Rather, our ability to exercise self-control is linked to our neurobiology, according to a study that has been published in The Journal of Neuroscience in June 2018 … more

Appetite-controlling brain circuits in mice may explain stress eating  MNT Medical News Today (Mar 22, 2017) by Ana Sandoiu –  Stress can have a serious impact on our appetite and eating patterns. Using a mouse model, new research examines how the brain controls the appetite, as well as the link between appetite and positive and negative emotions. … more

Brain’s Reward Processing Disrupted in Addiction  Medscape Medical News (Feb 17, 2017) by Pauline Anderson –   Neural reward processing may be disrupted in patients with addictive behaviors, a new meta-analysis of imaging studies suggests. Compared with healthy control persons, patients with a gambling disorder (GD) or substance abuse disorder (SUD) showed decreased activation of the striatum, a core region of the brain reward circuit, during “reward anticipation.” … more

Brain thinks yo-yo dieting is a famine, causing weight gain  MNT Medical News Today  (Dec 5, 2016) by Marie Ellis – We are in the height of holiday season, when chocolate, cakes, and calorie-laden foods are in abundance. But after the feast has commenced, you may want to think twice before going on a low-calorie diet. According to new research, the brain interprets repeated dieting as short famines, prompting the body to store more fat for future food shortages – resulting in weight gain. … more

Sugar addiction: Discovery of a brain sugar switch: Cell types like astrocytes regulate metabolic processes  ScienceDaily (Aug 12, 2016) – Researchers have discovered that our brain actively takes sugar from the blood. Prior to this, researchers had assumed that this was a purely passive process. The transportation of sugar into the brain is regulated by so-called glia cells that react to hormones such as insulin or leptin; previously it was thought that this was only possible for neurons. … more

Western-style diet linked to state-dependent memory inhibition  ScienceDaily (July 12, 2016) – Obesity may ultimately be a disease of the brain, involving a progressive deterioration of various cognitive processes that influence eating. Researchers have now shown that memory inhibition — the useful ability to ‘block out’ memories that are no longer useful, which depends on a brain area called the hippocampus — is linked to dietary excess. … more

Overeating may cause more eating by cutting off fullness signal  MNT Medical News Today (June 16, 2016) by Catharine Paddock – Overeating can lead to more eating, setting up a vicious cycle that promotes obesity. Now, a new study suggests one way this cycle works is that when the gut senses too many calories, it shuts off a hormone that tells the brain we are full. The new study suggests that when we eat too many calories, our gut stops producing a hormone that tells the brain we are full. In the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, describe how they came to this conclusion after observing mice on high-calorie diets. … more

Binge eating trigger point located deep inside brain  MNT Medical News Today (June 1, 2016) by Catharine Paddock – Scientists  believe they have located a point deep in the brain that links an external trigger to binge-eating or drug-seeking behavior. They found when they switched off certain brain cells in that location, rats that had once responded excitedly and speedily to cues for sugar – much like binge-eating – responded with less motivation and urgency. The finding could lead to new ways to help people reduce addictive behavior, they suggest. … more

A Neuroscientist Tackles ‘Why Diets Make Us Fat’  NPR National Public Radio (June 7, 2016) by Jean Fain – When Sandra Aamodt talks about dieting, people listen … or, they stick their fingers in their ears and go la, la, la. Aamodt’s neuroscientific take on why diets backfire is that divisive. Aamodt is a neuroscientist, book author and former editor of a leading brain research journal. She also has become a prominent evangelist of the message that traditional diets just don’t work and often leave the dieter worse off than before. And she’s an enthusiastic proponent of mindful eating. … more

Want to lose weight? Train the brain, not the body. No more stress eatingScienceAlert (May 28, 2016) by Laurel Mellin, The Conversation – Despite massive government, medical and individual efforts to win the war on obesity, 71 percent of Americans are overweight. The average adult is 24 pounds (10.9 kilograms) heavier today than in 1960. Our growing girth adds some $200 billion per year to our health care expenditure, amounting to a severe health crisis….If there is ever to be a ‘pill’ – a solution to weight – it will be changing the brain, particularly the primitive areas of the brain, the ’emotional brain’ or mammalian and reptilian brain. … more

A flip switch for binge-eating?  ScienceDaily (May 25, 2017) – Researchers have identified a subgroup of neurons in the mouse brain that, upon activation, immediately prompt binge-like eating. Furthermore, repeated stimulation of these neurons over time caused the mice to gain weight. The zona incerta (ZI) is a relatively understudied part of the brain. … more

Fructose alters hundreds of brain genes, which can lead to a wide range of diseases. Scientists report that diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the damage  ScienceDaily (Apr 22, 2016) – Consuming fructose, a sugar that’s common in the Western diet, alters hundreds of genes that may be linked to many diseases, life scientists report. However, they discovered good news as well: an important omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose. … more

This Is What Feeling Hungry Does To Your Brain. Research reveals exactly why you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. The Huffington Post (Apr 19, 2016) by Carolyn Gregoire – When you’re really hungry, the smell and sight of food takes on a whole new meaning — so it’s unsurprising that going grocery shopping when famished can lead to an overflowing cart and, likely, some buyer’s remorse. A new study on larval zebrafish, to be published in next month’s issue of the journal Neuron, shows that we may find it more difficult to resist tasty treats when our stomachs are grumbling because hunger may heighten our sensory perceptions of food. … more

How the brain processes emotions   ScienceDaily (Mar 31, 2016) – Neuroscientists identify circuits that could play a role in mental illnesses, including depression. A new study reveals how two populations of neurons in the brain contribute to the brain’s inability to correctly assign emotional associations to events. Learning how this information is routed and misrouted could shed light on mental illnesses including depression, addiction, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. … more

Appetite controlled by brain enzyme, researchers find  MNT Medical News Today (Mar 18, 2016) by Yvette Brazier – Scientists have discovered a new kind of nerve cell that appears to tell mice when it is time to stop eating. They hope that the findings, published in the journal Science, could shed new light on how the brain controls food intake and pave the way for new strategies to reduce obesity. … more

Pinpointing loneliness in the brain   MNT  Medical News Today (Feb 12, 2016) – Humans, like all social animals, have a fundamental need for contact with others. This deeply ingrained instinct helps us to survive; it’s much easier to find food, shelter, and other necessities with a group than alone. Deprived of human contact, most people become lonely and emotionally distressed. In a study appearing in the Feb. 11, 2016 issue of Cell, MIT neuroscientists have identified a brain region that represents these feelings of loneliness. This cluster of cells, located near the back of the brain in an area called the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), is necessary for generating the increased sociability that normally occurs after a period of social isolation, the researchers found in a study of mice. …more

Brain wiring explains why weight loss is more challenging for women  MNT Medical News Today (Feb 3, 2016) by Honor Whiteman – Trying to lose weight can be a challenge at the best of times, but this challenge may be even harder if you’re female. According to a new study, women’s brains may be wired in a way that makes them less likely than men to shed the pounds. … more

The search for happiness: Using MRI to find where happiness happens: Narrowing in on the neural structures behind happiness   ScienceDaily (Nov 20, 2015) – Researchers have mapped out using MRI where happiness emerges in the brain. The study paves the way for measuring happiness objectively — and also provides insights on a neurologically based way of being happy. … more

High-fat diet prompts immune cells to start eating connections between neurons   ScienceDaily (Nov 23, 2015) When a high-fat diet causes us to become obese, it also appears to prompt normally bustling immune cells in our brain to become sedentary and start consuming the connections between our neurons, scientists say. …more

Food may be addictive: Food craving may be ‘hard-wired’ in the brain   ScienceDaily (Aug 31, 2015) – An international group of researchers have found that food craving activates different brain networks between obese and normal weight patients. This indicates that the tendency to want food may be ‘hard-wired’ into the brain of overweight patients, becoming a functional brain biomarker. … more

How emotions influence learning and memory processes in the brain  ScienceDaily (Aug 6, 2015) – A groundbreaking new study at the University of Haifa has found for the first time that emotions are not only the product of the processing of information by the brain, but that they also directly influence processes of learning and memory in the brain … “It turns out that different emotions cause the brain to work differently and on distinct frequencies.” … more

How stress can tweak the brain to sabotage self-control   ScienceDaily (Aug 5, 2015) – A challenging morning meeting or an interaction with an upset client at work may affect whether we go for that extra chocolate bar at lunch. In a study, researchers placed human volunteers in a similar food choice scenario to explore how stress can alter the brain to impair self-control when we’re confronted with a choice. more …

Overeating caused by a hormone deficiency in brain? Study finds absence of peptide linked to preference for fatty food, eating for pleasure rather than hunger  ScienceDaily (July 23, 2015) – When hormone glucagon like peptide-1 was reduced in the central nervous system of laboratory mice, they overate and consumed more high fat food, scientists have found. Although this is not the only reason why people overeat, the study provides new evidence that targeting neurons in the mesolimbic dopamine system — a reward circuit in the brain — rather than targeting the whole body might be a better way to control overeating and obesity with fewer side effects. more …

Regular soda, please: Hormone that differentiates sugar, diet sweeteners could exist in humans ScienceDaily (June 11, 2015) – We’ve all been there: We eat an entire sleeve of fat-free, low-calorie cookies and we’re stuffing ourselves with more food 15 minutes later. One theory to explain this phenomenon is that artificial sweeteners don’t contain the calories or energy that evolution has trained the brain to expect from sweet-tasting foods, so they don’t fool the brain into satisfying hunger. However, until now, nobody understood how organisms distinguish between real sugar and artificial sweetener. more …

This is what sugar does to your brain   Huffington Post (Apr 6, 2015) by Carolyn Gregoire – We know that too much sugar is bad for our waistlines and our heart health, but now there’s mounting evidence that high levels of sugar consumption can also have a negative effect on brain health — from cognitive function to psychological wellbeing. more…

How body’s good fat tissue communicates with brain ScienceDaily (Mar 27, 2015) – Brown fat tissue, the body’s “good fat,” communicates with the brain through sensory nerves, possibly sharing information that is important for fighting human obesity, such as how much fat we have and how much fat we’ve lost, according to researchers. more…

High-fat diet alters behavior and produces signs of brain inflammation ScienceDaily (Mar 26, 2015) – Can the consumption of fatty foods change your behavior and your brain? High-fat diets have long been known to increase the risk for medical problems, including heart disease and stroke, but there is growing concern that diets high in fat might also increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders. A new study raises the possibility that a high-fat diet produces changes in health and behavior, in part, by changing the mix of bacteria in the gut, also known as the gut microbiome. more…

Obese teens’ brains unusually susceptible to food commercials, study finds ScienceDaily (May 21, 2015) – TV food commercials disproportionately stimulate the brains of overweight teenagers, including the regions that control pleasure, taste and — most surprisingly — the mouth, suggesting they mentally simulate unhealthy eating habits that make it difficult to lose weight later in life. more …

Multitasking hunger neurons also control compulsive behaviors   ScienceDaily (Mar 6, 2015) — In the absence of food, neurons that normally control appetite initiate complex, repetitive behaviors seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anorexia nervosa, according to a new study.   more …

Obesity is associated with brain’s neurotransmitters   ScienceDaily (Mar 4, 2015) — Researchers have revealed how obesity is associated with altered opioid neurotransmission in the brain. New research reveals how obesity is associated with altered functioning of brain’s opioid system, which is intimately involved in generating pleasurable sensations. The researchers found that obesity was associated with significantly lowered number of opioid receptors in the brain. However, no changes were observed in the dopamine neurotransmitter system, which regulates motivational aspects of eating.   more …

Teen brain scans reveal a key to weight loss   ScienceDaily (Feb 18, 2015) — MRI scans of teenagers who had successfully lost weight and kept it off show that they have higher levels of executive function — the ability to process and prioritize competing interests. Executive function is a trait that can be improved, scientists say. more…

OCD patients’ brains light up to reveal how compulsive habits develop   ScienceDaily (Dec 19, 2014) — Misfiring of the brain’s control system might underpin compulsions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to researchers … This line of work has shifted opinion away from thinking of OCD as a disorder caused by worrying about obsessions or faulty beliefs, towards viewing it as a condition brought about when the brain’s habit system runs amok … “It’s not just OCD; there are a range of human behaviours that are now considered examples of compulsivity, including drug and alcohol abuse and binge-eating,”   more …

Obese children’s brains more responsive to sugar   ScienceDaily (Dec 12, 2014)   A new study led by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine finds that the brains of obese children literally light up differently when tasting sugar. Published online in International Journal of Obesity, the study does not show a causal relationship between sugar hypersensitivity and overeating but it does support the idea that the growing number of America’s obese youth may have a heightened psychological reward response to food. more …

Training your brain to prefer healthy foods   ScienceDaily (Sept 1, 2014) — It may be possible to train the brain to prefer healthy low-calorie foods over unhealthy higher-calorie foods, according to new research.   more …

Study cracks how brain processes emotions   ScienceDaily (July 9, 2014) Although feelings are personal and subjective, the human brain turns them into a standard code that objectively represents emotions across different senses, situations and even people, reports a new study. “Despite how personal our feelings feel, the evidence suggests our brains use a standard code to speak the same emotional language,” one researcher concludes. more …

Excess weight linked to brain changes that may relate to memory, emotions, and appetite   ScienceDaily (Feb 11, 2014) – Being overweight appears related to reduced levels of a molecule that reflects brain cell health in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, learning, and emotions, and likely also involved in appetite control, according to a new study.  More

Bulimia and the brain: responses to body image and food    Medical News Today (Nov 18, 2013) – Brains of women with bulimia respond differently to women without bulimia when shown images of slim women. Both groups responded similarly to pictures of food, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry. The work suggests that treatments for bulimia should have a strong focus on self image rather than solely or primarily on issues with food.   Link

New treatments for binge eating, how our diet impacts brain function, and the connection between marijuana and obesity   Medical News Today (Nov 14, 2013) – A growing body of evidence shows the impact of diet on brain function, and identifies patterns of brain activity associated with eating disorders such as binge eating and purging. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.  Link

Scientists identify brain circuitry that triggers overeating  ScienceDaily (Sept 26, 2013) Sixty years ago scientists could electrically stimulate a region of a mouse’s brain causing the mouse to eat, whether hungry or not. Now researchers from UNC School of Medicine have pinpointed the precise cellular connections responsible for triggering that behavior. The finding, published September 27 in the journal Science, lends insight into a cause for obesity and could lead to treatments for anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder — the most prevalent eating disorder in the United States.   Link

Brain size may signal risk of developing an eating disorder  ScienceDaily (Aug 22, 2013) New research indicates that teens with anorexia nervosa have bigger brains than teens that do not have the eating disorder. That is according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine that examined a group of adolescents with anorexia nervosa and a group without. They found that girls with anorexia nervosa had a larger insula, a part of the brain that is active when we taste food, and a larger orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain that tells a person when to stop eating.   Link

Carbohydrate-rich foods trigger addiction response in brain: U.S. study   National Post: Health (June 30, 2013) by Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News – New brain studies suggest that carb addiction could be real.   Boston Children’s Hospital researchers who scanned the brains of men after they drank milkshakes containing rapidly digesting, highly processed carbohydrates found the men experienced a surge in blood sugar followed by a sharp and sudden crash four hours later.  That plummet in blood sugar activated a powerful hunger signal and stimulated the brain region considered ground zero for addictive behaviour.   Link

Dieting youth show greater brain reward activity in response to food   ScienceDaily (May 2, 2013) — The story is a familiar one: most people are able to lose weight while dieting but once the diet is over, the weight comes back. Many of us can personally attest that caloric deprivation weight loss diets typically do not produce lasting weight loss. Oregon Research Institute (ORI) senior scientist Eric Stice, Ph.D., and colleagues provide results in a recent issue of NeuroImage that further our understanding of how and why most weight loss diets fail and provide a more comprehensive description of the impact of caloric restriction.    Link  

Key shift in brain that creates drive to overeat identified   ScienceDaily (Apr 29 2013)  — A team of American and Italian neuroscientists has identified a cellular change in the brain that accompanies obesity. The findings could explain the body’s tendency to maintain undesirable weight levels, rather than an ideal weight, and identify possible targets for pharmacological efforts to address obesity.    Link

Binge eating curbed by deep brain stimulation in animal model   ScienceDaily (Apr. 23, 2013)— Deep brain stimulation (DBS) in a precise region of the brain appears to reduce caloric intake and prompt weight loss in obese animal models, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The study, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, reinforces the involvement of dopamine deficits in increasing obesity-related behaviors such as binge eating, and demonstrates that DBS can reverse this response via activation of the dopamine type-2 receptor.   Link

Increased brain activity predicts future onset of substance use   ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2013) — Do people get caught in the cycle of overeating and drug addiction because their brain reward centers are over-active, causing them to experience greater cravings for food or drugs?  In a unique prospective study Oregon Research Institute (ORI) senior scientist Eric Stice, Ph.D., and colleagues tested this theory, called the reward surfeit model. The results indicated that elevated responsivity of reward regions in the brain increased the risk for future substance use, which has never been tested before prospectively with humans. Paradoxically, results also provide evidence that even a limited history of substance use was related to less responsivity in the reward circuitry, as has been suggested by experiments with animals.   Link

Brain imaging studies reveal neurobiology of eating disorders   ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2013) — Current treatments for anorexia and bulimia nervosa, which afflict an estimated 10 to 24 million Americans, are often limited and ineffective. Patients relapse. They become chronically ill. They face a higher risk of dying.  “A major reason contributing to the difficulty in developing new treatments for these disorders is our limited understanding of how brain function may contribute to eating disorder symptoms,” said Walter H. Kaye, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Eating Disorder Treatment and Research Program at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.    Link

Discovery in neuroscience could help re-wire appetite control    ScienceDaily (Apr. 5, 2013) — Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have made a discovery in neuroscience that could offer a long-lasting solution to eating disorders such as obesity.  It was previously thought that the nerve cells in the brain associated with appetite regulation were generated entirely during an embryo’s development in the womb and therefore their numbers were fixed for life.  But research published today in the Journal of Neuroscience has identified a population of stem cells capable of generating new appetite-regulating neurons in the brains of young and adult rodents.    Link

Small trial shows “brain pacemaker” may ease severe anorexia     Reuters (Mar. 06, 2013)  by Kate Kelland – Scientists  have for the first time reported successful use of a brain-stimulating implant to help patients with severe anorexia whose condition had not improved with other treatments.   Doctors implanted a device similar to a pacemaker in the brains of six severe anorexics and found at least half put on weight and showed improvements in mood. Under previous therapies, none had shown progress.    Link

Brain pathway identified that triggers impulsive eating     Medical News Today (Mar. 4, 2013) – New research from the University of Georgia has identified the neural pathways in an insect brain tied to eating for pleasure, a discovery that sheds light on mirror impulsive eating pathways in the human brain.   Link

‘Connection Error’ in brains of Anorexics    ScienceDaily (Jan. 24, 2013) — Researchers have found altered connectivity in the brain network for body perception in people with anorexia: The weaker the connection, the greater the misjudgement of body shape.  When people see pictures of bodies, a whole range of brain regions are active. This network is altered in women with anorexia nervosa. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, two regions that are important for the processing of body images were functionally more weakly connected in anorexic women than in healthy women.   Link

Ancient systems in the brain drive human cravings    CBC News (Jan. 2, 2013) by Kelly Crowe – What’s biologically valuable, such as food, water, a sexual partner or social companion, drives the brain’s dopamine system, Richard Beninger tells CBC’s Kelly Crowe.   Neuroscience is the new black, when it comes to fashion in scientific research…Increasingly scientists also believe food can hijack the brain’s reward system. At York University, Professor Caroline Davis is studying the biological basis of food addiction. She says the brain’s reward system can be particularly sensitive to highly processed food with combinations of salt, sugar, fat and flavours found nowhere in nature.   Link

Brain image study: Fructose may spur overeating     Associated Press (Jan. 1, 2013) by  Marilynn Marchione and Mike Stobbe – This is your brain on sugar — for real. Scientists have used imaging tests to show for the first time that fructose, a sugar that saturates the American diet, can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating.  After drinking a fructose beverage, the brain doesn’t register the feeling of being full as it does when simple glucose is consumed, researchers found.    Link

Can exercise protect the brain from fatty foods?    The New York Times: Well (Nov. 7, 2012) by Gretchen Reynolds – In recent years, some research has suggested that a high-fat diet may be bad for the brain, at least in lab animals. Can exercise protect against such damage? That question may have particular relevance now, with the butter-and cream-laden holidays fast approaching. And it has prompted several new and important studies.  The most captivating of these, presented last month at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, began with scientists at the University of Minnesota teaching a group of rats to scamper from one chamber to another when they heard a musical tone, an accepted measure of the animals’ ability to learn and remember.  For the next four months, half of the rats ate normal chow. The others happily consumed a much greasier diet, consisting of at least 40 percent fat. Total calories were the same in both diets.  Link

How sugar may make you stupid    Toronto Star (Oct 21, 2012)   by Lorianna De GiorgioBad news sugar lovers: a diet high in fructose won’t just make you fat, it may also make you stupid, according to research out of California.  A steady high-fructose diet disrupts the brain’s cognitive abilities, leading to poor learning and memory retention, says a study by Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a neurosurgery professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Rahul Agrawal, a visiting UCLA postdoctoral fellow from India.   Link

Overeating impairs brain insulin function, a mechanism that can lead to diabetes and obesity     ScienceDaily (Oct. 17, 2012) — New research from Mount Sinai School of Medicine sheds light on how overeating can cause a malfunction in brain insulin signaling, and lead to obesity and diabetes. Christoph Buettner, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease) and his research team found that overeating impairs the ability of brain insulin to suppress the breakdown of fat in adipose tissue.    Link

Obese brain may thwart weight loss: diets high in saturated fat, refined sugar may cause brain changes that fuel overconsumption   ScienceDaily (Oct. 1, 2012) — “Betcha can’t eat just one!” For obese people trying to lose weight, advertising slogans such as this one hit a bit too close to home as it describes the daily battle to resist high calorie foods.  But new research by Terry Davidson, director of American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, indicates that diets that lead to obesity — diets high in saturated fat and refined sugar — may cause changes to the brains of obese people that in turn may fuel overconsumption of those same foods and make weight loss more challenging.   Link

Brain study reveals the roots of chocolate temptations    ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2012) — Researchers have new evidence in rats to explain how it is that chocolate candies can be so completely irresistible. The urge to overeat such deliciously sweet and fatty treats traces to an unexpected part of the brain and its production of a natural, opium-like chemical, according to a report published online on September 20th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.   Link

Eight surprising parallels between food and drug addictions   Food may be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol     Psychology Today:  Real Healing  (Sep. 18, 2012) by Carolyn C. Ross, MD, MPH   Although the jury is still out, a growing body of evidence shows some striking similarities between food addiction and drug addiction:   #1 Effect on the Brain’s Reward SystemThe American Society of Addiction Medicine, the nation’s largest professional society of physicians dedicated to treating and preventing addiction, now embraces a broad definition of addiction, which encompasses not only drugs and alcohol but also “process” addictions such as food, sex and gambling. Why? Because of the effect all of these substances and behaviors have on the brain.   Link

Obesity and metabolic syndrome associated with impaired brain function in adolescents   ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2012) — A new study by researchers at NYU School of Medicine reveals for the first time that metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with cognitive and brain impairments in adolescents and calls for pediatricians to take this into account when considering the early treatment of childhood obesity.   Link

How stress and depression can shrink the brain    ScienceDaily (Aug. 12, 2012) — Major depression or chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment. Now a team of researchers led by Yale scientists has discovered one reason why this occurs — a single genetic switch that triggers loss of brain connections in humans and depression in animal models.   Link

Force of habit: Stress hormones switch off areas of the brain for goal-directed behaviour  ScienceDaily (July 25, 2012) — Cognition psychologists at the Ruhr-Universität together with colleagues from the University Hospital Bergmannsheil (Prof. Dr. Martin Tegenthoff) have discovered why stressed persons are more likely to lapse back into habits than to behave goal-directed. The team of PD Dr. Lars Schwabe and Prof. Dr. Oliver Wolf from the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have mimicked a stress situation in the body using drugs. They then examined the brain activity using functional MRI scanning.  Link

Binge eating improves with deep brain stimulation surgery    ScienceDaily (June 25, 2012) — Deep brain stimulation reduces binge eating in mice, suggesting that this surgery, which is approved for treatment of certain neurologic and psychiatric disorders, may also be an effective therapy for obesity. Presentation of the results took place June 25 at The Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.  Link

That guilt you feel? There’s a place (in your brain) for that   Los Angeles Times (June 5, 2012) by Melissa Healy – The  father of psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, had a special affinity for discerning the guilt and self-blame in his patients’ thinking: This, he said, is one of the things that distinguished depression from mere sadness. And the physical representation of this penchant for blaming oneself — as well as many other symptoms he could observe but not dissect — would someday be found somewhere in the brain, the Austrian neurologist long speculated.  Turns out, the old man was onto something.   Link

Anxious girls’ brains work harder   ScienceDaily (June 5, 2012) — In a discovery that could help in the identification and treatment of anxiety disorders, Michigan State University scientists say the brains of anxious girls work much harder than those of boys.  The finding stems from an experiment in which college students performed a relatively simple task while their brain activity was measured by an electrode cap. Only girls who identified themselves as particularly anxious or big worriers recorded high brain activity when they made mistakes during the task.   Link

Training our brains to see ourselves in a more attractive light  ScienceDaily (May 22, 2012) — Researchers at the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology have designed a programme called Mírate bien (Take a good look at yourself). It is a tool designed to enable us to learn to love our bodies and faces; and to improve our physical self-concept…  The students participating in the programme are not asked to do any kind of physical activity. It is the cognitive side that has to be trained here: to restructure our perceptions so that we have a more realistic awareness about our image.  Link

Self-worth needs to go beyond appearance, experts say  ScienceDaily (May 9, 2012) — Women with high family support and limited pressure to achieve the ‘thin and beautiful’ ideal have a more positive body image. That’s according to a new study looking at five factors that may help young women to be more positive about their bodies, in the context of a society where discontent with appearance is common among women.  Link

Big girls don’t cry: Overweight teens who are satisfied with their bodies are less depressed, less prone to unhealthy behaviors  ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2012) — A study to be published in the June 2012 issue of Journal of Adolescent Health looking at the relationships between body satisfaction and healthy psychological functioning in overweight adolescents has found that young women who are happy with the size and shape of their bodies report higher levels of self-esteem. They may also be protected against the negative behavioral and psychological factors sometimes associated with being overweight.  Link

The politics of fat: We have to keep struggling to liberate ourselves from self-hatred  AlterNet (Apr. 4, 2012) by Allison McCarthy – “We claimed the agency, we granted ourselves the authority. But we never stopped worrying about how our asses looked in our jeans.” … Psychologist Susie Orbach’s debut book Fat Is a Feminist Issue celebrates 34 years of providing theoretical and practical musings on the relationship between women and fat.  Link

For many girls, slimming down doesn’t help self-esteem:  Teens who were formerly obese often still view themselves as fat, study finds  US News & World Report: Healthday News (Apr. 3, 2012) – Weight loss doesn’t necessarily lead to a boost in obese teenage girls’ self-esteem, according to a new study.  “We found that obese black and white teenage girls who transitioned out of obesity continued to see themselves as fat, despite changes in their relative body mass,” study author Sarah Mustillo, an associate professor of sociology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., said in a university news release.  Link

Israel bans use of ultra-skinny models.  Doctors must sign off on model’s weight: Advertisers obliged to come clean on “photoshopping”  Reuters (Mar 20, 2012) – Israeli lawmakers have banned underweight models from catwalks and commercials, a measure they hope will reduce eating disorders and promote a healthy body image.  The law, passed late on Monday, says women and men cannot be hired for modeling jobs unless a doctor stipulates they are not underweight, with a body mass index (BMI) — a measure expressing a ratio of weight to height — of no less than 18.5.  Link

Sex, lies and media: New wave of activists challenge notions of beauty (Mar. 11, 2012) by Emanuella Grinberg – Here’s the fantasy: A half-naked woman lies across a couch, lips pouty and cleavage prominent as her sultry gaze implores you to buy this bottle of perfume.  The reality: Women make up 51% of the United States yet only 17% of seats in the House of Representatives. They’re 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 7% of directors in the top 250 grossing films.  What’s the connection? We live in a sexualized society where the gap between fantasy and reality is vast and harmful… Siebel-Newsom’s documentary, Miss Representation, is the latest cinematic foray in the movement to challenge portrayals of beauty in “the media,” a term used to describe all forms of mass communication, from the internet, TV, film, magazines, radio and advertising.  Link

Peer pressure drives “socially transmitted” anorexia  Reuters (Mar. 1, 2012) by Paul Casciato — Anorexia is a socially transmitted disorder and appears to be more prevalent in countries such as France where women are thinner than average, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science.  The “economic analysis” of anorexia, using a sample of nearly 3,000 young women across Europe, concluded that peer group pressure is one of the most significant influences on self-image and the development of anorexia and appeared just as the autumn/winter season is winding up with Paris Fashion Week.  Link

Images in magazines and on television increase body dissatisfaction  ScienceDaily (Oct. 28, 2011) — Adolescents who read magazines and watch television contents that deal with the concept of image prove to be unhappier with their own bodies. Girls are more susceptible to experiencing a lower perception of their physical appearance. Body dissatisfaction is linked to the type of content that is consumed (diet, beauty, health or music videos) rather than the frequency of exposure.  Link

Fear of getting fat seen in healthy women’s brain scans  ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2010) — A group of women in a new study seemed unlikely to have body image issues — at least their responses on a tried-and-true psychological screening presented no red flags. That assessment changed when Brigham Young University researchers used MRI technology to observe what happened in the brain when people viewed images of complete strangers.  Link

‘Phantom fat’ can linger after weight loss (June 23, 2009) by Jacqueline Stenson — Even though Kellylyn Hicks has lost about 85 pounds over the last year and a half, and gone from a size 24 to a tiny size 4, she still worries she won’t fit into chairs…Some specialists use the term “phantom fat” to refer to this phenomenon of feeling fat and unacceptable after weight loss.  Link

One in five obese women select overweight or obese silhouettes as their ideal body image  ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — For many women, body image is a constant struggle; a poor self-image can lead to a host of both mental and physical health problems. But a new study out of Temple University finds that an extremely good body image can also take its toll on a woman’s health.  Link

Maternal Mirrors:  Two new books look at the influence mothers have on their daughters’ body image—and how women can instill confidence instead of insecurity Newsweek:  Her Body (May 6, 2009) by Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert — The next time you take a look in the mirror and find yourself asking, “Does my butt look fat in this dress?” it might be worth also asking whether you should thank your mom for such thoughts. That’s the thesis of two new books that explore the influence of mothers on their daughters’ developing body images. These aren’t the typical “blame mom for everything” tomes that we usually want to toss against a wall. (After all, we are moms ourselves—as well as daughters.) Rather, both books … offer reassuring and practical advice for raising confident daughters and overcoming negative messages you may have received from your own mother.  Link

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