Hardwired Brain Functioning for Weight Loss

Recent study revealed that dieting success may be hardwired into the brain. A new research report provided by Chen et al in Cognitive Neuroscience, explored the connections between the executive control and reward systems in the brain, and revealed the ability to self-regulate a healthy system weight may be dependent on person’s brain structure. Obesity and dieting are increasingly in modern society and majority of dieters work hard to cut excess weight.


Long-term dieters are known to show extreme reactions to food sources cues in executive control and reward regions of the brain, in addition to having depleted cognitive control and over-rewarding with high calorie foods in real life conditions. Chen et al made a group of thirty six chronic dieters, with mean body fat equal to 29.6%, and asked them to make simple judgments on images to redirect their focus from the real aim of the task.

The doings carried out was a food cue reactivity task designed to limit the executive control and reward areas in the brain, utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). After localizing the executive control and reward areas, Chen et al applied diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to recognize the white matter track connecting these regions to quantify the integrity within this area.

Hardwired Brain Functioning for Weight Loss

The fMRI results showed that dieters illustrated better reactivity to food images than control images. The DTI results further revealed that those with lower body fat percentage rates showed greater white matter integrity between executive control and reward areas of the brain. The research findings support their hypothesis that structural integrity connecting the two centers relates to individual distinctions in system fat and is a sign of dieting success. The authors note, “Individuals with lowered integrity may have complexity in overriding rewarding cravings, leading to a greater possibility of becoming obese than those with higher structural integrity.”


The research paper authors urge future continued longitudinal study to set up whether cyclic dieting in itself could trigger alteration in white matter integrity, exacerbate the executive control and reward communications and result in more entrenched obesity for the person.


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