Stress and emotional brain networks foster eating behaviors that can lead to obesity. The neural networks underlying the complex interactions among stressors, body, brain and food intake are now better understood. Stressors, by activating a neural stress-response network, bias cognition toward increased emotional activity and degraded executive function. This causes formed habits to be used rather than a cognitive appraisal of responses. Stress also induces secretion of glucocorticoids, which increases motivation for food, and insulin, which promotes food intake and obesity. Pleasurable feeding then reduces activity in the stress-response network, reinforcing the feeding habit. These effects of stressors emphasize the importance of teaching mental reappraisal techniques to restore responses from habitual to thoughtful, thus battling stress-induced obesity.
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