Humans can be trained to crave food in response to abstract prompts just like Pavlov’s dogs, reveals new research.
But whereas Pavlov ’s dogs were conditioned to drool at the sound of a bell, Jay Gottfried and colleagues at University College London, UK, trained humans to yearn for vanilla ice cream and peanut butter at the sight of fractal-based computer images.
Importantly, the team also showed that the human brain can put a “brake” on the powerful desire for certain foods once the appetite has been sated. This system to turn the “delectable into the distasteful” maybe crucial in regulating behaviour, they say. Detecting faults in this system might in the future help shed light on compulsive eating disorders and substance addictions, speculates Gottftried, a neurologist.
“If food cravings in general are being triggered by environmental cues associated with food, compulsive eaters could have a disturbance in the way the brain puts a brake on the system,” he told New Scientist.
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