updated - September 18, 2021 Saturday EDT
"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Joseph Shroeder, a professor of neuroscience at the school said in a press release on the school's website. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."
Last year, Shroeder researched the connection between "drug" and the environment with students, seniors Jamie Honohan, and Becca Markson, and sophomores Gabriela Lopez, and Katrina Bantis.
"My research interests stemmed from a curiosity for studying human behavior and our motivations when it comes to food," Honohan said in a statement. "We chose oreos not only because they are America's favorite cookie, and highly palatable to rats but also because products containing high amounts of fat and sugar are heavily marketed in communities with lower socioeconomic statuses."
In the study, researchers set up a maze where on one side they fed rats oreos, and gave them food to serve as a "control" like rice cakes on the other. The students then allowed the rats to go on both sides of the maze, in order to determine the amount of time they spent in the portion where they consumed oreos.
The study found rats controlled by the cookie treat, stayed in the drug section of the maze for as long as the rodents induced with cocaine, or morphine, also known as addictive substances. These were put on one side of the maze while saline was placed on the other side. Shroeder uses the substances to perform research since he is licensed by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
"It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos," Shroeder said in a statement. "This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high fat/high sugar foods are addictive." Shroeder is also licensed by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to use "controlled substances" when doing research.
The team's research will be presented next month at the Society for Neuroscience's conference in San Diego, Calif.
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