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When It Comes to Your Brain, Pictures of Processed Food Really Do Hit Different

When It Comes to Your Brain, Pictures of Processed Food Really Do Hit Different

If you’ve ever mindlessly scrolled through TikTok late at night only to pause at a mouth-watering video of a cheesy pizza or greasy burger, not only are you not alone, you’re actually not even strange. It turns out, your brain has a unique series of neurons that light up when you see pictures of processed food.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they accidentally discovered a unique constellation of food-specific neurons that light up when people look at food pictures. What’s more, those neurons light up harder and brighter when we see processed foods than they do with things like fruits and vegetables. So it’s not just your tastebuds that are getting more excited about a plate of fried chicken than a bowl of cucumbers — it’s your literal brain.

“The fact that the food-specific neural population responded to evolutionarily new categories, like doughnuts and candy, suggests that there is likely an experience component to it,” Meenakshi Khosla, PhD, a postdoctorate at MIT, told Bon Appetit.

That means that even though we’re all wired to love all food, our brains do change over time and we do start to crave other things like crispy french fries, a double bacon cheeseburger, piping hot mozzarella cheese sticks, spaghetti and meatballs, pepperoni pizza, garlic bread, fish taco — hmmm, we were going somewhere with this.

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