What part of our brain activates food cravings?

When a 2004 study asked participants to think about a favorite food, resulting functional MRI images showed that three primary areas of the brain lit up: the hippocampus, insula and caudate.

The hippocampus is in the temporal lobe and filters sensory data to store it in short-term or long-term memory.

The insula, which is located on either side of the brain, helps to control your social emotions by interpreting what physical state you are in.

The caudate nucleus, which is in the striatrum in the center of the brain, helps to control the body's dopamine reward system. Dopamine, a feel-good hormone, also is produced during gambling, sex and drug activity.

The dopamine stimulation and chemical reward we get from fulfilling food cravings has been likened to drug addiction because the behaviors follow similar neural pathways.

The reward and pleasure is simply a milder version than the high experienced by drug addicts.

Neurologically, a fast food joint is not substantially different from a person who sells drugs.

Our emotional state also tends to have a greater impact on our cravings than on our hunger. Our diet influences our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates our disposition.

Our sensory memories of some foods also elicit a chemical satisfaction, which reinforces our cravings.

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