The Truth About Temptation May Be Found in a Brain Scan

By Emily Murray

Most of us have that one friend who always seems to make the right decision – saying “no” to the one-night stand or walking away from that tempting chocolate cake…every single time.

While we can come up with a number of reasons about why they seem to be able to turn down temptation, new research has revealed that it actually may come down to the way our individual brain’s rewards centers work and now there is a brain scan that can help back this up.

Research that was recently released from Dartmouth College has shown that certain people exhibit hyper-activation in the area of the reward center of the brain which can actually seem to predict sexual behaviors as well as eating patterns. This information was obtained by studying a group of Dartmouth female students and released last week in the Journal of Neuroscience.

At first it seems that a person’s ability to turn down dessert or exercise other actions of willpower come down to simply self restraint, this study showed a definite connection to the brain.

The 48 women in the study went through resonance brain scans while they were shown pictures of food, nature, animals and also people partaking in both sexual and non-sexual activities. Unaware of the purpose for being shown these images, researchers were able to study how their brains responded. Those who experienced the most activity in their brain when faced with images of food were most likely to gain weight over the next 6 months. Following this same pattern, women who experienced the most brain activity while viewing the sexual images were more likely to have higher levels of sexual desire.

What is perhaps a bit surprising is that we may assume that those whose brains responded most to food or sex would likely react the same to both these temptations. Oddly enough however, this wasn’t the case. There was no real crossover between activity of the brain in regards to food and sex.

Researchers from Dartmouth have commented on their belief that there is not just this genetic proponent, but also experience that has caused the brain to experience all this activity when triggered.

While it may seem difficult to see any practical application for this kind of research at first glance, it may actually be able to help medical professionals better understand troublesome behaviors and therefore help develop new ways to treat them.