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Food Images and Your Brain

Seeing is believing: How your brain reacts to food images.

food images and your brain

We may now have a better idea of why some people crave fries over fruit. Using artificial intelligence technology to build a computer model of a certain part of the human brain, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers discovered a new area in the organ’s visual cortex that lights up when we see images of food.  

The findings, published in Current Biology, showed that a component in the ventral visual cortex was triggered by both black-and-white or colored photos and could distinguish between images that resembled food and actual food—like a banana and crescent moon. And, for some, processed foods like pizza elicited more of a response in the brain than foods like fruit.  

The scientists stress that there is more research to be conducted to understand whether this region is the same or different in different individuals and how it is impacted by experience or familiarity with different kinds of foods. Pinpointing any differences could provide insights into how people choose what they eat—healthy or not-so-healthy foods. 

See also: Food Packaging and Perceptions

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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