Eating is one of the basics of keeping alive, regulated by an extremely complex set of brain phenomena. It’s also affected by extremely old, complicated and sophisticated cultures like dining habits, traditions, culinary creativity and science, and more recently for many of us worldwide diet and nutrition oriented trends. We know we eat for survival but we also eat because of hedonistic impulses, in other words just for the pleasure of it. On top of this some people develop different types of eating disorders, directly connected to our lifestyle and psychological states. So while eating is essential for us to survive it has evolved over centuries and maintains a significant presence in our subconscious.
We now know that dopamine, which acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, plays a big part in our food and drink choices. One of its functions is a major role in reward based behaviour and it’s this sensitivity to reward that influences many of our eating decisions. These decisions are hedonistic; our subconscious associating certain foods with pleasure and happiness. After all liking and wanting usually occur in strong connection to each other and both are strongly connected with consumer behavior.
The “pleasure center” is situated deep in the Nucleus Accumbens area of the brain. In simple terms it’s the area of the brain most closely involved with processing motivation, pleasure and reward. It was discovered by scientists at McGill University in the early 1950s and has become the Holy Grail of marketing, especially food marketing, ever since.
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