Researchers targeted a region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, which serves as a cognitive "reward center." In the study, first-year college students were asked to view images of various foods, people, and environmental scenes. Six months later, the subjects were interviewed again; and their bodyweight and survey responses were compared to previous brain scans.
The study concluded that those whose fMRI scans indicated stronger responses to food cues returned heavier than before. Additionally, the study uncovered a correlation between sexually provocative images and future sexual activity.
Interestingly, those who were identified as having stronger responses to food activity did not engage in more sexual behavior, while responses to non-food images did not predict weight gain.
Scientists believe the research results may be useful in understanding how self-awareness affects behavioral self-control.