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What Makes You Crave S*x And Chocolate?

November 12, 2015 2 min read

Sex and chocolate, two incredibly enjoyable and crave-worthy indulgences. In fact, these things are so enjoyable you may not have spent much time thinking about why it is you desire them. Recent research has found a possible answer to the question you may not have thought to ask! Researchers at Dartmouth have traced cravings back to a particular part of the brain, called the ventral palladium, which may provide important insights into addictive behaviours in humans-- like drug use or overeating. When a person sees a particular cue, this region of the brain associates that cue with a particular reward. For example, when you see golden arches, you may have a strong craving for fast food. "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," says Stephen Chang, a postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study. chocolate To examine this association between cues and rewards, the researchers used sign-tracking. In the experiment, subjects were given the reward regardless of their behaviour. "We were primarily interested in whether the ventral pallidum, a brain region implicated in processing reward, is also involved in sign-tracking," says Chang. A new technology known as DREADDs (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs), allowed scientists to test the value of cues by inactivating regions in the brain. These engineered receptors mimic those found naturally in the brain and are introduce into the neurons by viruses. When injected with a synthetic drug, the receptors are activated and the neurons shut down. "These results are the first to show that the ventral pallidum is necessary for the attribution value to cues that are paired with rewards," Chang says. Using DREADDs in rats, the researchers were able to repeatedly and temporarily inactivate the ventral palladium and halt the rats' reward-driven behaviours.

"This is surprising because the ventral pallidum was historically considered to be just an area for expressing motivations in behavior," says Chang. "In terms of clinical applications, the results carry the potential for stripping away value from reward-paired cues in cases such as addiction."

What do you think of these findings? Might your food cravings be linked to a cue and reward circuit in your brain?

Source: Daily Mail

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