Study Shows Girls Less Motivated by Food Than Boys, Form More Complex Responses

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Gender signs - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.12.2021
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Researchers found that adolescent boys are more likely to be motivated by food than girls, who, in turn, have a higher likelihood of forming a complex appetitive response influenced by the activation of the dopamine receptor 4 (DRD4) in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, according to a report in the journal Nature.
The DRD4 gene produces inhibitory effects and is expressed in brain regions responsible for planning, executive function and rewards, the study said. The variations in the dopamine function can influence body weight and eating behavior in children and adults, causing emotional eating and high snack food intake, the research noted.
The researchers observed brain responses of 73 volunteers in a satiated state to high- and low energy dense foods using the MRI scan. The imaging analysis showed that there was more variety in responses between girls with low and high predicted prefrontal DRD4 expression than between the boys in the same groups.
"The emergence of these differential patterns of activation among girls, but not boys, is consistent with greater likelihood of a complex appetitive response among girls," the study said.
Additionally, regardless of DRD4 group, adolescent males reported greater pre-scan hunger, lower pre-scan fullness, and higher wanting ratings for the high energy dense food compared with adolescent girls, according to the study.
"This is consistent with other evidence for enhanced food motivation in men compared with women throughout the lifespan, and especially during puberty and adolescence when sex differences in energy demands become pronounced," the researchers noted.
Further studies are required to identify more direct causal relations between gender and neural responses to food stimuli. The aim of such research is to combat obesity among children and young adults.
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