How eating sweets leaves an indelible mark on your brain

PUBLISHED:Nov 14, 2015 | UPDATED:05:32 AM, Nov 14, 2015

Scientists in Georgia found sweet foods activated the neurons in the dorsal hippocampus, the part of brain responsible for episodic memory - that which the researchers believe controls food habits.

Eating sweet foods causes the brain to form a memory, which can ultimately encourage a person to eat more, experts believe.

They say the formation of the memory could control a person's eating habits.

The findings reveal that neurons in the dorsal hippocampus, the part of the brain critical for episodic memory, are activated by consuming sweets.

Episodic memory is the memory of autobiographical events experienced at a particular time and place.


Eating sweet foods causes the brain to form a memory, which can ultimately encourage a person to eat more, scientists in Georgia believe


To arrive at their findings researchers at Georgia State University, Georgia Regents University and Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, fed rats a meal consisting of a sweetened solution.

That substance, which was either sucrose or saccharin, significantly increased the expression of the synaptic plasticity marker, called activity-registered cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) in the neurons of the dorsal hippocampus.

Synaptic plasticity is a process that is necessary for making memories.

Professor at the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State, Marise Parent, said: 'We think that episodic memory can be used to control eating behaviour.

'We make decisions like "I probably won't eat now, I had a big breakfast".

'We make decisions based on our memory of what and when we ate.' 

The theory is supported by previous studies carried out by the team of researchers.

That research showed temporarily deactivating dorsal hippocampus neurons after eating a sweet meal, the point at which a memory is formed, accelerates the onset of the next meal, and causes rats to eat more.

The researchers said forming memories of meals is important to a healthy diet.

A London-based study has shown that disrupting the encoding of memories of meals in humans, such as by watching TV, increases the amount of food they consume during their next meal.


Sweet foods are thought to affect the neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain, highlighted, that is responsible for the formation of memories 

Researchers have found that people with amnesia will eat again if they are presented with food, even if they've already eaten, because they have no memory of the meal.

To understand energy regulation and the causes of obesity, scientists must consider how the brain controls meal onset and frequency, Professor Parent said.

Studies have found that increased snacking is correlated positively with obesity, and obese individuals snack more frequently than people who aren't obese.

Research also shows that over the past three decades, children and adults are eating more snacks per day and deriving more of their daily calories from snacks, mostly in the form of desserts and sweetened beverages.

In the future, the research team would like to determine if nutritionally balanced liquid or solid diets that typically contain protein, fat and carbohydrates have a similar effect on Arc expression in dorsal hippocampal neurons and whether increases in Arc expression are necessary for the memory of sweet foods.

The study was published in the journal Hippocampus.



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