Researchers Develop ‘Brain Game’ That Helps Users Resist Sweets, Drop Pounds

PITTSBURGH (CBS) — Can you train your brain to resist sweets? A computer program developed by researchers in Pennsylvania is helping some people lose weight.

Emily Hunsicker says it’s shocking that she happily eats healthy snacks and is finally losing weight.

“I am very surprised. I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it,” Hunsicker said.

She’d been a sugar addict and candy was her down fall, always stashed someplace close by.

“I do remember the time my sisters found the M&Ms in the shoe box in my closet,” she said.

Emily says she was able to temporarily break the addiction with a variety of diets over the years, but nothing really worked. That is until she volunteered to test the Diet Dash Computer Program.

“I don’t know what happened, but I’m telling you, I have not had an M&M since May 1 when I started the study, and I don’t even want one,” she said.

It’s a brain training computer game designed to activate the part of the brain that says stop instead of go to certain foods.

Evan Forman, a psychologist at Drexel University developed the computer program that takes 10 minutes a day, for six weeks.

“If you think of it as a basic brain skill that by practicing something that’s a little bit difficult repeatedly over and over again, you get better at it,” he said. “Practicing it to a picture of the food translates to practicing it to the real food.”

For more information, visit CBS Philadelphia’s website here.

The dieter responds to a series of pictures of good and bad food, accepting or refusing it. It changes and gets faster over time. As people get better at the game, they should get better at resisting the temptation to eat unhealthy food in real life.

“It’s very, very strange, but it’s great. It’s wonderful,” Hunsicker said.

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Even though it’s unclear how and why the program works, preliminary research shows it does, but maybe not for everyone. Hunsicker lost 22 pounds in three months.

“Something in my brain had to have changed, because I don’t choose to eat those foods anymore.”

Drexel is looking for more volunteers to further test Diet Dash. They eventually hope to expand the program to target a variety of unhealthy foods, not just sugar.

Click here for more information on Diet Dash.


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