It’s virtually impossible not to smile when you’re enjoying an ice cream cone, a froyo sundae or a frosty milkshake. But have you wondered what it is about these frozen delights (besides their undeniable sweetness) that inspires such joy? Turns out ice cream affects the very same parts of our brain that give us butterflies when we hear our favorite song or hit a jackpot on a tinkling slot machine. And that discovery could potentially lead to even more groundbreaking revelations about how our brains function.
Neuroscientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London conducted a several months long study that examined the effect that a small cup of vanilla ice cream had on the minds of a dozen or so participants. Magnetic imaging techniques revealed that each spoonful of ice cream activated the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, or “processing” area of the brain, responsible for pleasurable sensations.
While the fact that delicious ice cream can bring a person joy isn’t necessarily a radical discovery, but the revelation that even one small taste of ice cream caused significant blood flow to activated brain areas is fascinating. This science (magnetic resonance imaging) could be used to investigate how the brain handles situations including disappointment and loneliness, making these maladies infinitely more treatable.
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