Ever found yourself fighting to focus on work, only to find thoughts of sweet, velvety chocolate floating up into a mind? Normally you’ll find that there is only one way to get back on track: caving to the craving. Or is there? One school of research, and even some NHS guidance, suggests that the urge could dissipate if you just hold out for twenty minutes. It’s all down to the way our brains are wired.

“We get a rush of pleasure and an anticipation of reward when we see, smell or are in the presence of tasty foods,” says Charlotte Hardman, Professor of Psychology of Eating Behaviour at the University of Liverpool. Researchers have gone to great (and sometimes amusing) lengths to investigate the origins and power of that rush, including, Hardman explains, piping the scent of chocolate into MRI scanners. Reward centres in their brains light up in response to the smell. It is likely, explains Hardman, that the mere thought of food can trigger opioid and cannabinoid receptor sites in our brains. When these are stimulated, they produce a powerful desire otherwise known as… a craving.

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. . .Hardman stresses [that] cravings are a pretty complicated phenomenon involving a web of different brain messages and chemicals, learnt behaviours and emotional associations. For example, while the smell or sight of a treat is activating the neurons in your reward system, a chemical called dopamine is also being stimulated in the brain. Dopamine is often called the ‘pleasure chemical’ but this is actually something of a misnomer. What it actually does is drive your desire for things that you associate with pleasure.

In other words, this sudden surge in dopamine, triggered by the expectation of a treat, fuels your craving for it. But here’s the good news. The surge is likely to be relatively short-lived. Kent Berridge, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan and leading dopamine researcher has previously suggested that surges peak at around five minutes (another study suggests elevations, in animals at least, might last “minutes or tens of minutes.”).

Read the complete article in Yahoo News