There are few things more tempting than a donut and a coffee on a Friday afternoon. And few feelings more demoralising than the inevitable sugar crash that follows, when you know you’ve still got two more hours work to get through.
But what if there was a was to avoid this? Well, after conducting a series of successful experiments on mice, scientists now hope to (one day) be able to turn off your sweet tooth, eliminating those late-in-the-day tests of will power.
As reported by Science Daily, “New research in mice has revealed that the brain’s underlying desire for sweet, and its distaste for bitter, can be erased by manipulating neurons in the amygdala, the emotion center of the brain.” So who knows: maybe you could end up loving broccoli.
They came to this conclusion by conducting several experiments in which the sweet or bitter connections to the amygdala (one part of our brain that controls emotions) were artificially switched on or off. When the sweet connections were turned on, the mice responded to water just as if it were sugar. Likewise, by manipulating the connection, the researchers could also make a bitter taste be perceived as an attractive one (so tweets like the following will become a thing of the past).
Currently at the gym and my brain decided to remind me how delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream is…so that’s helpful
— Dean Michael Unglert (@deanie_babies) 31 May 2018
Even more significantly; “When the researchers instead turned off the amygdala connections but left the taste cortex untouched, the mice could still recognise and distinguish sweet from bitter, but now lacked the basic emotional reactions, like preference for sugar or aversion to bitter” (Science Daily).
“It would be like taking a bite of your favourite chocolate cake but not deriving any enjoyment from doing so… After a few bites, you may stop eating, whereas otherwise you would have scarfed it down.”
The study also has implications for the treatment of eating disorders.
“The research points to new strategies for understanding and treating eating disorders including obesity and anorexia nervosa.”