The Hungry Brain, Continued

The previous post ended with the question of how the BrainWeighve app might help to alleviate the body’s tendency to hold onto fat. Does the previously mentioned article by Dan Hurley offer any clues? It was written back when the roles of the hormones ghrelin (“Keep eating”) and leptin (“You’re full”) were being explored. And more was going on, too. Hurley wrote,

One fruitful new avenue comes from the revelation that hunger, blood sugar, and weight gained per calorie consumed all ratchet up when our sleep is disrupted and our circadian rhythms — the 24-hour cycle responding to light and dark — thrown into disarray. All this is compounded by stress, which decreases metabolism while increasing the yen for high-calorie food.

In the ensuing years, research found that night-eating definitely promotes weight gain. This is the type of solid information a person can use, and can use BrainWeighve to help implement. We have already seen one of the ways in which the app can be used to help reduce stress.

This is where having a comprehensive list of action plans will come in handy. Of course, in this case, the stored suggestions could be more accurately described as “inaction” plans: sleep enough, at the appropriate times; and don’t eat at night.

It is astounding, how much hunger originates in the brain. Differences in the gustatory cortex and the somatosensory regions of that organ can put weight on a person. Hurley quotes clinical psychologist Eric Stice, whose research demonstrated a seeming paradox: people who experience less pleasure from the food actually are at increased risk of putting on fat:

But his more recent studies have convinced him that the reduced pleasure is a result of years of overeating among the obese girls — the same phenomenon seen in drug addicts who require ever-greater amounts of their drug to feel the same reward.

But wait, there’s more!

Eating behaviors are also linked to areas of the brain associated with self-control (such as the left superior frontal region) and visual attention (such as the right middle temporal region). A recent fMRI study led by Jeanne McCaffery, a psychologist at Brown Medical School, showed that successful weight losers had greater activation in those regions, compared with normal-weight people and obese people, when viewing images of food.

As always, stress plays a big part too, because…

[…] stress pathways in the limbic system feed into the reward centers, and they drive reward-seeking behaviors… We’re not necessarily fat because we’re hungry but because we’re looking for something to deal with stress.

The BrainWeighve app can help us contradict other factors, like the hormone ghrelin that tells us to eat, eat, eat. Most obesity triggers are found in the brain, lying in wait to trip us up and urge us to consume. With the help of BrainWeighve we can train other parts of the brain to fight against that compulsion, and weaken it, and even induce it to limp away in defeat.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A New Suspect in the Obesity Epidemic: Our Brains,”, 08/22/11
Image by Kevin Tan/Flickr

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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