Posts Tagged ‘women’s brain’s’

The AP (1/20, Schmid) reports, “Faced with their favorite foods, women are less able than men to suppress their hunger, a discovery that may help explain the higher obesity rate for females,” according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In an effort to determine “why some people overeat and gain weight while others don’t,” Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and colleagues, “performed brain scans on 13 women and 10 men, who had fasted overnight, to determine how their brains responded to the sight of their favorite foods.”
        The food was “warmed up so it would smell appealing,” and the subjects “were told to suppress their hunger,” Bloomberg News (1/20, Lopatto) adds. Participants were taught “how to use a method called cognitive inhibition, in which” they “either ignored thoughts of the food, or tried to think of something else.”
        CNN (1/20, Harding) reports that “volunteers had three brain scans: once with no instruction on how to react to the food, once after being told to suppress their desire for the food, and once with no food in front of them.” The researchers found that, among “women, brain activity was about the same whether or not they had been asked to suppress their desire.” In contrast, men “showed a distinctively different brain activity when they tried to suppress their urge. They showed less activation in regions involved in ’emotional regulation, conditioning, and motivation’…specifically the amygdala, hippocampus, insula, orbitofrontal cortex, and striatum.”
        These regions of the brain “have been linked by other studies to ’emotional regulation’ and memory activation — suggesting that the men were retrieving their memories of the desired food less — perhaps making them less affected by the thought of it,” BBC News (1/20) explains on its website. Therefore, the authors hypothesized that “lower cognitive control of brain responses to food stimulation in women compared to men may contribute to gender differences in the prevalence rates of obesity and other eating disorders.”
        Time (1/19, Kluger) noted that the researchers are “not certain what’s behind the differences,” although they suspect “hormones may play a significant role.” Use of “a long-running PET scan” allowed them to have “a good look at the amygdala, the deepest and most primitive of the brain structures involved. When the amygdala acts up, it’s exceedingly hard to bring it to heel, as anyone suffering from anxiety conditions like phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder could attest.” They pointed out that, while the male subjects’ success in “disciplining their amygdalas was an undeniable accomplishment…it was one that required enormous effort.”
        The Minneapolis Star Tribune (1/20), the Long Island Newsday (1/20, Dowdy), CTV (1/20), and the U.K.’s Daily Mail (1/20, Derbyshire) and Independent (1/20, Green) also cover the story.

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