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Curiosity and hunger share brain regions

Sep 30, 2022

We spend a lot of time talking about the similarities between food x information, and the ways in which both subtly shape our wellbeing. Our first tool, the Mental Hunger Scale, was created to show the link between hunger, curiosity, and other sensations surrounding our consumption habits.  This isn’t just a creative exercise.

As this 2020 study reveals, both hunger and curiosity stem from the same region of the brain. It’s not to say these drives are identical (curiosity is more intrinsic vs hunger is more extrinsic), but they do share common neural mechanisms.

This study gives us more reason to ground ourselves in the many lessons learned through food to help manage our mental intake. It encourages us to tune into the way these overly familiar sensations really feel in our body, and get curious about the messages encoded in each.

ACTION ITEM: 60 second body scan

  • Set a timer and then set down or close your device.
  • Close your eyes and focus on how you feel inside.
  • Starting with your big toe , slowly move your attention up your legs, into your stomach, chest, neck, and landing for a few extra second in your head.
  • What are the 1-2 clearest sensations you noticed- within your body? Tingly? Tight? Warm? Relaxed? How easy or hard is it for you to define the sensations in your body in this current moment?

READ PREVIEW OR PURCHASE FULL STUDY: Shared striatal activity in decisions to satisfy curiosity and hunger at the risk of electric shocks 

Key Quote: “We consistently demonstrate that across different samples, people are indeed willing to gamble, subjecting themselves to electric shocks to satisfy their curiosity for trivial knowledge that carries no apparent instrumental value. Also, this influence of curiosity shares common neural mechanisms with that of hunger for food.”

Journal: Nature Human Behaviour

Authors and Affiliations

Contributions: K.M. conceived the idea, and J.K.L.L. and K.M. jointly designed the study. J.K.L.L., H.O., A.K. and K.K. created the experimental materials. J.K.L.L. performed the research and analysed the data. J.K.L.L. and K.M. jointly wrote the paper. All authors provided critical comments.

Competing interests : The authors declare no competing interests.

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