Last night’s chocolate binge? Not really your fault, was it?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, good news, oh ye weak of sugarholic flesh.
Researchers from the University of Michigan say our urge to overindulge is physical. It stems from a brain region called the neostriatum. The neostriatum was thought to only affect movement, but it also produces an intriguing opiumlike neurotransmitter called enkephalin.
It was hinted at in previous brain studies with obese people viewing food, and drug-addicts viewing drugs. Enkephalin seemed linked to reward-seeking behaviors.
In this more recent study, the team monitored the levels of natural enkephalins in rats' brains while they ate M&Ms. As the critters chowed down, enkephalins surged. Later, the team injected a synthetic form of enkephalin into rats' neostriatums and loosed them onto the chocolate.
And? The drugged rats ate 250 percent more than they normally would have! So much for watching their fuzzy waistlines!
See, it’s not you, it's your neostriatum. Time to break out the M&Ms in celebration!
The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.