• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Science of Desire

Air Date: Week of

Scientists have discovered the link between the hunger-sensing part of the brain and the region responsible for emotional and addictive behavior. Jennifer Percy reports.


PERCY: I just ate half the carton of fudge brownie ice cream. I really shouldn’t eat more. Oh, but those little chunks of fudge taste so good. Maybe I should have one more little spoonful. Oh, another one wouldn’t hurt. Maybe just two more…


PERCY: Have you ever kept eating and eating, knowing you should stop? Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified the brain pathways that motivate our desire to overeat, linking them to the regions of our brain responsible for emotional and addictive behaviors.

To view these pathways, researchers implanted a device into the stomachs of seven obese patients. When the device was turned on it stimulated the stomach to expand and release the peptides responsible for telling the brain whether or not the body is full. The scientists compared scans of the patient’s brains when the device was turned on and off. They found that when the device was on, there was a significant increase of activity in the regions of the brain most closely associated with emotion. Most of that activity occurred in the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to emotional behaviors, learning, memory and sensory impulses.

The study also shows that eating triggers the same part of the brain that is responsible for addictive behavior. This creates a desire to eat more and more even when we are full. The study is the first direct evidence that brain regions are involved in our physical response to eating. So the next time you find yourself reaching for that second slice of cake, don’t let your stomach do the talking, it might be telling your brain something else.

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Jennifer Percy



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth