Modern maladies such as obesity and addiction have neural correlates in two ancients parts of the brain: the hypothalamus and the amygdala. Research has elucidated the particular neuronal structures and pathways that underlie the development of these conditions. Some have argued that the epidemics of obesity and addiction have their roots in the contemporary environment of hyperpalatable food and other supernormal addictive stimuli that hijack and dysregulate homeostatic control by the hypothalamus.
This talk considers whether food and other stimuli are inherently addictive, or only become that way through conditioning. Insufficient attention has been paid to the role of the amygdala and learning processes in mediating the sensory, emotional and social inputs that can modulate hypothalamic drives for better or worse. I will outline ways that appetite and other drives can be usefully retrained, often with surprising effectiveness for losing weight and overcoming addictions.
Todd Becker writes the blog Getting Stronger, exploring a wide range of health topics from the perspective of hormesis — our innate adaptive ability to become more resilient, physically and psychologically, by judicious exposure to beneficial stress. He combs the scientific literature to understand the biology of hormesis and presents practical ways to apply it to improve health.
Todd has advanced degrees in chemical engineering and philosophy from Stanford and UC Davis, and works in the field of biotechnology.