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Binge eating and obesity: Food motivation and overconsumption in people

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Understanding binge eating and obesity? A key challenge in evaluating anti-obesity treatment is determining how to objectively measure a person's desire to eat; with concerns about obesity on the rise, a research team from the University of Cambridge shares a possible solution. You may want to check out the study and its video, "Studying Food Reward and Motivation in Humans," published March 19, 2014 online in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a novel method for evaluating the treatment of obesity-related food behavior. In an effort to further scientific understanding of the underlying problem, they have published the first peer-reviewed video of their technique in JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Overconsumption

In the video, the authors demonstrate their means of objectively studying the drivers and mechanisms of overconsumption in humans. To do this, they assesses their subject's willingness to work or pay for food, and they simultaneously track the corresponding brain activity using an MRI scanner.

"We present alternative ways of exploring attitudes to food by using indirect, objective measures—such as measuring the amount of energy exerted to obtain or view different foods, as well as determining brain responses during the anticipation and consumption of desirable foods," says the lab's principal investigator, Dr. Paul Fletcher, according to the March 19, 2014 news release, "Understanding binge eating and obesity."

He and his colleagues use participant hand-grip intensity (referred to as "grip force" in the video) to calculate the motivation for a given food reward

According to Dr. Fletcher, typical approaches for evaluating anti-obesity type drugs rely on more subjective methods—like having test subjects self-report their ratings of hunger and cravings.

"When a person is asked how much they subjectively desire a food, they may feel pressured to give a 'correct' rather than a true answer," says Dr. Fletcher, according to the news release. "[Our] grip force task may, under certain circumstances, present a more accurate reflection of what they really want."

Dr. Fletcher and his colleagues brought the technique to JoVE after using it in their earlier publication, "Food images engage subliminal motivation to seek food," published in 2011. They decided to publish a video capturing the protocol "Because it offered the opportunity to demonstrate the methods more fully," he explains, according to the news release.

In the video, Dr. Fletcher expands on the purpose of publishing the method with JoVE. "Individuals new to the technique may struggle because there aren't many examples of grip-force tasks published in the literature, and there are no full and clear descriptions of how to design and set up the tasks," he says, according to the news release.

With rising concerns surrounding obesity, researchers can use the technique presented in the JoVE video to determine the efficacy of a potential emerging market in anti-obesity medicine.

About JoVE, The Journal of Visualized Experiments:

JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, is the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films and edits videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques at top universities, allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly. As of March 2014, JoVE has published video-protocols from an international community of more than 9,300 authors in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics.

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