New research shows that activity in the brain region associated with rewards can now predict if the person will gain weight or engage in sexual activity within the upcoming six months. The nucleus accumbens is buried deep in our brain and has been associated with both addiction and pleasure.
A new study has found that young women with a nucleus accumbens that reacts strongly to photos of appealing foods are more likely to experience weight gain as compared to women with more low-key responses. At the same time, when their nucleus accumbens reacts more strongly to pictures with sexual imagery, the women are more likely to engage in sexual activity in the next six months, as well.
Study researcher at Dartmouth College, Bill Kelley, says the study was nice because it was one of the first to actually link the brain response to more long term events of behavior, according to Huffington Post.
Kelley noted that in the long run, the reward system in the brain is likely to be just a piece of a puzzle. He added that a person’s willpower and how good they are at overriding their system will matter also.
There are certain health situations like bulimia that have already been tied to high nucleus accumbens action with response to cues that are food related. Kelley and his team aimed to determine if there was such predictive power to these types of linkages.
They discovered the people’s reactions were behavior specific meaning that weight gain was only linked to the response of the food photos in the nucleus accumbens and likewise the sexual photos only increased sexual activity and desire.
Kelly noted that these specific temptations trigger these kinds of behaviors and not just the overactive nucleus accumbens. Knowing your brain’s triggers can help you avoid the unconscious desires to want something and you can self regulate those desires by your own willpower.