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Brain's reward center determines self-control

Wednesday - 4/25/2012, 7:48am  ET

WASHINGTON - If self-control is a problem, it may not be a person's willpower that's the issue. It may be how the brain's reward center responds to those things the person loves, including food and sex.

Dartmouth College research published in the "Journal of Neuroscience" used pictures of food, landscapes and erotica to gauge how 48 women reacted. Researchers used fMRI brain imaging to see how their brains responded.

Six months later, the women returned and filled out questionnaires. Those who responded strongly to food images had gained weight, while those who reacted to the sexual images reported having more sex and stronger desires.

Bill Kelley, associate professor of Dartmouth's department of psychological and brain sciences, says the study shows that activating one brain region was a strong predictor of how people would behave.

Kelley said it's not just genetics that played a role in the brain's wiring. Experiences also played a role, MSNBC reports.

WTOP's Veronica Robinson contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)