Hungry brain vs. thinking power
Snack attacks are not the only answer to a growling tummy. Keeping a strong mind can stop us from overeating and ward off neurodegenerative diseases, too.
You’re working late or studying hard and a case of the munchies hit you.
It’s not your imagination. Thinking makes us hungry.
Actually, it’s the hormone called ghrelin that makes us hungry. Scientists say that the same hormone can also boost our brain power and even be an essential player in future treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
But starving ourselves to up our brain performance isn’t the way to go. Studies show that if we use our brain power to think about our next meal, we’ll eat less and stay mentally strong.
In a paper published in the journal Neuron, neuroscientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) show how a region of the brain called the insular cortex choreographs how signals from the body are interpreted and acted upon.
Using a mouse model, Mark Andermann, PhD, principal investigator in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues recorded the activity of hundreds of individual brain cells in the insular cortex to determine exactly what is happening as hungry animals ate.
They found that when hungry mice were shown a visual cue that food was on its way, the insular cortex appeared to simulate the future state of being satiated and then returned to an activity pattern related to hunger.
“It is as if the insular cortex is briefly estimating, or simulating, the physiological consequences of eating a meal,” said first author Yoav Livneh, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in Andermann’s lab.
So, if we can harness our minds to think of a healthy meal instead of sugar-loaded junk foods, our next snack attack can boost brain power if we let it.