Brain scans can predict weight gain and sexual activity
Dartmouth researchers demonstrated a connection between brain responses, measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and future behavior. The researchers targeted the nucleus accumbens, often called the brain's ‘reward center,’ in a group of incoming college students. While undergoing scans, the subjects viewed images of animals, environmental scenes, appetizing food and people. Six months later, their weight and information regarding sexual behavior were compared with their previously recorded weight and brain scan data. "The people whose brains responded more strongly to food cues were the people who went on to gain more weight six months later," explains Kathryn Demos, first author of the paper. The researchers point out that understanding the brain's response to triggers is important in stopping unwanted behavior. "You need to actively be thinking about the behavior you want to control in order to regulate it," remarks William Kelley, associate professor of psychological and brain science and a senior author on the paper. "Self-regulation requires a lot of conscious effort."