Summary: Study reveals the strength of the connection between the brain and internal organs is associated with how a person feels about their appearance. Weaker brain responses to the gut and heart were linked to greater levels of body shame and weight preoccupation.
A recent study has led to the discovery that the strength of the connection between our brain and internal organs is associated with how we feel about our body image.
This study is first of its kind to analyse, and first to identify, the connection between body image and the brain’s processing of internal signals that happens unconsciously.
Carried out by a team of neuroscientists and psychologists at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the study found that adults whose brains fail or are less efficient to notice these internal signals are more likely to experience negativity about their body image, like body shame and weight preoccupation.
This research can lead to therapeutic suggestions for people suffering with conditions in which body image plays an important role. For instance, the unconscious signals could be made conscious. Further research could even be applied to the clinic as being unaware about the brain responses to gut signals may indicate a predisposition to eating disorders.
The researchers observed a group of healthy UK adults as the study subjects. They first took part in four body image assessments to determine their feelings of body appreciation, body functionality appreciation, body shame, and weight preoccupation.
The researchers then carried out measurements of the subjects’ internal signals. Some of the signals from the heart and gut are computed at an unconscious level and the nervous system converts these signals to feed the brain with continuously updated information about the body’s internal state.
The strength of the connection between the gut and the brain was recorded simultaneously by recording the electrical activity of both regions. The researchers also recorded brain responses to heartbeats.
They found that weaker brain responses to the gut and heart were both remarkably linked to greater levels of body shame and weight preoccupation amongst the subjects.
The research findings can be helpful for those experiencing negative body image, which can have a serious impact on people’s lives.
Contact: Press Office – Anglia Ruskin University.
Details: Image source IStock