Brain Scans Can Predict Weight Gain and Sexual Activity
At a time when obesity has become epidemic in American society, Dartmouth scientists have found that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans may be able to predict weight gain. In a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers demonstrated a connection between fMRI brain responses to appetite-driven cues and future behavior.
“This is one of the first studies in brain imaging that uses the responses observed in the scanner to predict important, real-world outcomes over a long period of time,” said study coauthorTodd Heatherton. “Using brain activity to predict a consequential behavior outside the scanner is pretty novel.” The researchers targeted a region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, often referred to as the brain’s “reward center,” in a group of incoming first-year college students. While undergoing scans, the subjects viewed images of animals, environmental scenes, appetizing food items, and people. Six months later, their weight and responses to questionnaires regarding interim sexual behavior were compared with their previously recorded weight and brain scan data.