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Rethinking food reward

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Tristan Bekinschtein.

The conscious perception of the hedonic sensory properties of caloric foods is commonly believed to guide our dietary choices. Current and traditional models implicate these consciously perceived hedonic qualities of food as driving overeating, whereas subliminal signals arising from the gut would curb our uncontrolled desire for calories. In this talk I will review recent animal and human studies that support a markedly different model for food reward. These findings reveal in particular the existence of subcortical body-to-brain neural pathways linking gastrointestinal nutrient sensors to the brain’s reward regions. In this model, gut-brain reward pathways bypass cranial taste and aroma sensory receptors and the cortical networks that give rise to flavor perception. They instead reinforce behaviors independently of the cognitive processes that support overt insights in the nature of our dietary decisions. We will also consider several examples of how modern processed foods impact this circuit to drive overeating.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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