Neuroscience researchers at Connecticut college have found that eating oreo cookies activated a great number of neurons in the pleasure center of brains of rats than ingestion of morphine or cocaine, providing important insight into how powerfully addictive high-fat and high-sugar foods can be. Also interesting (and amusing): rats, like humans, not only enjoy cooking oreos, but they break open the cookie and eat the middle before the rest. Part of the experiment involved testing the rats' association of specific environments with the experience of pleasure. Like rats, we tend to have positive associations with environments in which we have had positive experiences, and we tend to avoid environments in which we have negative experiences. Rats who had been conditioned to associate the experience of eating Oreos with a specific side of the maze were as likely to spend time in that area as rats conditioned to associate a part of the maze with cocaine and morphine use.
Schroeder and his students then used immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos, a marker of neuronal activation, in the nucleus accumbens, or the brain's "pleasure center."
"It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos," said Schroeder.
They found that the Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine.
"This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high-sugar foods are addictive," said Schroeder.
And that is a problem for the general public, says Honohan.
"Even though we associate significant health hazards in taking drugs like cocaine and morphine, high-fat/ high-sugar foods may present even more of a danger because of their accessibility and affordability," she said (Connecticut College, 2013)
Connecticut College. (2013, October 15). Are Oreos addictive? Research says yes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131015123341.htm