2 Brain Networks Are Vital To Weight Loss, Neuroscientists Find

Those whose brains are better at resisting temptation and do not automatically seek out food are better at weight loss.

Those whose brains are better at resisting temptation and do not automatically seek out food are better at weight loss.

Two brain networks are highly influential in successful weight loss, neuroscientists have shown.

Activity in one network of brain regions — called ‘FN1’ — is linked to sensory and motors skills.

It is these areas of the brain that control people’s unconscious motivation to seek out food.

In other words, some people are automatically looking for food, even without being consciously aware of it.

The second network called ‘FN2’, influences attention and executive function.

These regions of the brain are involved in how people resist temptations to eat.

People who find it harder to resist temptations naturally have more difficulty losing weight.

In contrast, those whose brains are better at resisting temptation and do not automatically seek out food are better at weight loss, the researchers found.

Professor Jonathan Burdette, the study’s first author, said:

“These findings show that the brain network properties of people who were less successful at weight loss were different from folks who were more successful.

Some people have a stronger unconscious sensory motor bias to pursue food, while others appear to have less.

In a society of food abundance with food cues everywhere, this information can help explain why some people have such difficulty in taking off excess weight and maintaining it.”

The research involved 71 people enrolled in a weight loss trial.

Their brains were scanned at the start to see what types of activity would predict success.

The two functional networks, FN1 and FN2, were found to be critical to people’s progress.

Professor Burdette said:

“Our findings provide further insight into complex functional circuits in the brain so we now have a mechanistic understanding of why people aren’t losing weight.

In theory, if you know more about urges and control, we will be able to tailor therapies to an individual as opposed to treating everyone the same.”

Implications for weight loss therapy

The findings suggest that to lose weight people need to understand the importance of unconscious drives.

Unfortunately, people consistently underestimate the impact of unconscious process like habits on their behaviour.

Mindfulness is one way to become more aware of behaviours that are triggered unconsciously.

Certainly, mindfulness has been consistently found to reduce cravings for food, cigarettes and alcohol.

Over time, people practising mindfulness find it easier to resist acting on their desires.

Mindfulness helps the mind acknowledge cravings and allows them to flow out of consciousness.

In addition, self-weighing encourages people to be aware of their weight and makes them think about what they are eating.

Awareness is more likely to motivate change.

The study was published in the journal Obesity (Burdette et al., 2022).

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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.