Scientists have recently discovered that there are many effects that food has on the brain.
Neurons are brain cells. They are connected to circuits and communicate with one another to create feelings, store information, and control behavior. Neurons respond to rewarding food by shooting electrical signals and releasing brain chemicals that then travel to interconnected neurons (Kessler, 2009, p. 35 ). Neurons can be “encoded” for palatability, meaning that they show preference by firing more. For example, a neuron may be “encoded” to the taste, smell or texture of a certain food. The increasing effect of this liking towards a specific food, will cause sensory stimuli to amp up the neurons and fire them to move (Kessler, 2009, p.35). The message to consume food becomes more powerful, prompting the eater to act more aggressively in search of the stimulus.
“Orosensory self-stimulation” plays a great role in overeating and obesity. It is a cyclic process in which eating delectable foods conveys the message to the brain that makes us want more of those foods. The thing that drives eating and makes food enticing is the Orosensory effect (Kessler, 2009, p.37 ).
The opioid circuitry is best described as the primary pleasure system in the body. Opioids, also known as endorphins, are chemicals produced in the brain that have rewarding effects on the body. Opioids control persistent pain and feelings of stress and frustration. This is similar to the effect of drugs, such as morphine and heroin (Kessler, 2009, p.37 ). Stimulating the opioids with food, causes great feelings. This effect drives us to eat more food. “Nucleus accumbens” is the area in the brain that is the center of reward in the body. Opioids that are produced by the consumption of high fat foods and sugar, have the ability to calm down a person and relieve him from stress. In fact, infants that are given bottles of sugar water, are calmer and happier (Kessler, 2009, p. 37). This is a problem. Since the nucleus accumbens derives pleasure from highly palatable foods, it will get people to want more. Engaging the opioid mechanism can evolve into a phenomenon known as “Taste-specific satiety”. Taste- specific satiety means that after eating a certain amount of a specific food, the person will stop eating it. If there is another food available the person will eat that. But the opioid mechanism interferes, since people are eat excessive amounts of foods high in sugar, fat, and salt and they are continuing. They are not stopping at their taste-specific satiety because they are gaining very rewarding feelings in the nucleus accumbens (Kessler, 2009, p. 38). The “hedonic hot spot” is a tiny section in the center of the nucleus accumbens. This causes us to love something. This spot enhances the pleasure of taste and adds a special layer of pleasure onto the taste sensation (Kessler, 2009, p. 40).
Dopamine is a brain chemical that fuels our behavior...