Your brain on sugar

How does the brain respond to sugar and other sweet foods?

That is one of the questions that Eric Stice, a researcher from the Oregon Research Institute, is trying to answer with help from the Lewis Center for Neuroimaging (LCNI) at the University of Oregon. Stice, a courtesy research associate in the UO’s department of psychology, is currently investigating how the brain changes in response to stimulation from chocolate and other sweet foods and how these changes influence obesity.

Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times and author of “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, joined Stice at the UO’s LCNI this week for a chance to participate in one of Stice’s studies.

A New York Times bestseller, Salt Sugar Fat” linked the rise of the processed food industry with the emergence of the obesity epidemic in the United States. In particular, Moss revealed how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict consumers by calculating the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhancing the taste of fats by altering their chemical structures.

Moss, who is currently working on his next project, got a close-up view of the UO's new Siemens Skyra 3T MRI—one of the most powerful in the region—as he went inside the machine for a look at how his brain responds to stimulation from milkshakes and dark chocolate.

Think that sounds like fun?

"We've got a lot of different studies running at the center, from studying concussions in athletes, to understanding developmental delay in children," said Fred Sabb, director of LCNI, "but only one lets you drink a milkshake."

To learn more about the impact of salt, sugar, and fat on obesity, you can follow Michael Moss and his book at his website or on twitter: @M_MossC.

The Lewis Center for Neuroimaging at the University of Oregon supports interdisciplinary, multifaceted research in cognitive neuroscience and biological imaging. The LCNI has a Siemens Skyra 3T MRI unit and full capabilities for the design and fabrication of MR coils to support a broad range of research needs and applications.

To learn more about the LCNI, visit their website to find information about their facilities, resources, and opportunities for researchers.