Can Your Brain Be Addicted To Sugar?

Are obese brains “addicted” to sugar? Hello everyone! I’m Crystal here with DNews.
Now I don’t know about you, but I had really strict parents and they rarely let me eat
sugar as a kid. And now that I’m an adult, candy basically makes up one of my major food
groups. According to a new study out of the University of California San Diego, the brains
of some children respond differently to sugar than others and are more likely to appear
“addicted” to sugar. The discovery that addicted brains are structurally
and functionally different from non-addicted brains is not new, but this study reveals
that those neurological changes can happen very young, while the brain is still developing. Those of you who watch a lot of these videos
probably already know that the brain matures back to front, with the frontal cortex (which
is responsible for our rational decision making abilities) maturing last, in our early twenties.
At adolescence the regions of our brains that are responsible for emotion and “reward”
(that happy feeling we get when we encounter something we like) are fully on-line before
we have the ability to regulate and control our reactions to them and this fact has been
used to explain why adolescents, who physically appear very adult, make decisions that are
so. very. dumb. (sorry mom) Approaching obesity as a symptom of food addiction,
Scientists at UCSD examined the brains of obese and non-obese pre adolescent children
using fMRI to identify any functional differences in their response to sugar. The children’s
ages ranged from 8 to 12 and they were asked to close their eyes and focus on the taste
of a sugar-water solution while they swirled it around in their mouth. The resulting images showed that obese children
had more activity in the insular cortex and amygdala, brain regions associated with emotion,
perception, contextual awareness and taste. But what was most surprising, is that the
obese children did not show any increased response to sugar in the striatum. The striatum is involved in our perception
of salience, which is how much an item or experience stands out when compared to others
and it is also known to play an important role in our experience of reward so scientists
were surprised to see no increase in activity in children they tested. This result was also
surprising because increased activity in the striatum has been associated with obesity
in adults. The DA reward pathway involving the striatum,
substantia nigra, nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area is the accepted neuroscientific
roadmap for how we experience pleasure and develop addictions (ask me about my thesis
sometime) but we are starting to learn more about the role of the amygdala in emotional
regulation in the development of addiction states. A recent rodent study showed that
clinical activation of the amygdala in a lever press experiment made a sugar solution MORE
“ADDICTIVE” (or at least more rewarding). So it may be that rats and children whose
amygdala activation in response to sugar are more likely to seek out sweets due to the
emotional memory of the experience. Obviously there are many causes for obesity
and food addiction is just one of them. Are scientists going down the right path? Subscribe
to D News and let us know in the comments down below! You can also come find me on twitter
at PolyCrystalHD

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