Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Addiction Cure? Scientists Uncover Brain Circuits Behind Cravings

Published on November 17, 2015 by   ·   No Comments

© Dartmouth College


We all have food cravings from time to time, but now scientists have discovered a way to suppress those desires through the activation of designer neural receptors. The findings could aid in the battle against addiction and overeating.

The study, conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College, is “the first to systematically show how designer brain receptors and designer drugs work together to change how cues for food stimulate motivation,” the university said in a press release.

Our brain subconsciously operates on a system of cues and rewards, according to the scientists.

“In everyday life, we are bombarded with advertisements, or cues, that garner our attention and trigger us into purchasing products, or rewards. Consequently, these reward-paired cues can become attractive themselves,” the researchers wrote.

They used the example of the McDonald’s golden arches acting as a cue by producing a craving for fast food, which is a reward, even when a person isn’t hungry or hasn’t seen any food.

The scientists studied this process by using sign-tracking, also known as autoshaping, experimental conditioning in which the reward is given regardless of the subject’s behavior.

“Although we have a sense of what brain circuits mediate reward, less is known about the neural circuitry underlying the transfer of value to cues associated with rewards,” said lead author Stephen Chang, a postdoctoral fellow. “We were primarily interested in whether the ventral pallidum, a brain region implicated in processing reward, is also involved in sign-tracking.”

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