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Researchers in the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) recently discovered that an individual´s internal find it difficult to choose from healthy and unhealthy food items relies from neural processes in the brain.

The findings from the study were recently published within the Journal of Neuroscience.

“We seem to have independent systems able to guiding our decisions, as well as in situations such as this one, these systems may compete for charge of what we do,” explained the study´s lead author Cendri Hutcherson, a Caltech postdoctoral scholar, in the prepared statement.

The researchers believe that this self-regulation can make or break a person´s option to eat something that is fattening.

“Oftentimes, scalping strategies guide behavior within the same direction, so there’s no conflict together,” continued Hutcherson in the statement. “However in other cases, like the all-too-common inner battle to subdue the longing of eating the chocolate cake, they can guide behavior toward different outcomes. Furthermore, the outcome from the decision seems to depend on which of these two systems takes control of behavior.”

The scientists believe that there’s much evidence that highlights the way the decision making procedure for individuals is impacted by different values placed on a group of provided options. In effect, people make a decision according to whichever choice has the highest value. Having a “single-value hypothesis,” someone could make the choice between something that is tasty and unhealthy versus something which has so-so taste but is not as fattening. On the other hand, the “multiple-value hypothesis” states that there are multiple systems with assorted values so the brain will pick the healthy option once the brain activates the system that measures healthiness.

“An important and controversial open questionwhich this research is built to addressis whether there is a single value signal within the brain, or maybe you will find instead multiple value signals with different properties that compete for the charge of behavior,” remarked Antonio Rangel, a professor of economics and neuroscience at Caltech, within the statement.

The study included 26 volunteers who were necessary to not consume any food for four hours prior to the test was conducted. The scientists used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine during the exam to look for the brain activity of participants when they were asked how much these were prepared to pay for a particular snack. The volunteers needed to pick the snack once they were acting normally, once they were focused on limiting their need for eating, and when these were intent on increasing their desire to feast around the snack. The researchers allowed the participants to complete whatever necessary to have a semblance of self-control, be it by taking into consideration the taste from the snack or by focusing on the fitness of the meals. People then placed real bids to purchase the food after waiting for four seconds.

Based on the results, the researchers learned that there have been two areas within the brain that focused on once the individuals wanted a specific item. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and also the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were found to have different roles once the participants were attempting to control their hunger. The dlPFC was the region that focused on not wanting the food, while the vmPFC was the area that focused on desiring the snack.

Furthermore, the team of investigators discovered that the modification forwards and backwards various areas of the brain didn’t happen instantaneously. The brain needed to have a few seconds before being in a position to change from the dlPFC towards the vmPFC. Researchers in the past have observed dieters, but the results show that only the vmPFC controls the choice making process. Connecting within the new findings to the results of that old study, the scientists claim that dieters are more accustomed to self-control which individuals who practice dieting may gain more ability in self-regulation.

“These studies suggests a reason why it feels so desperately to control what you do,” concluded Hutcherson within the statement. “You’ve got these really fast signals that say, choose the tempting food. But only once you start to go for it are you able to catch yourself and say, no, I don’t want this.”