_Gut Reaction

The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach, a new study shows.

_Alice Ely

Ely earned her master’s and doctoral degrees at Drexel, and is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, part of the University of California–San Diego School of Medicine.

_Michael Lowe

Lowe is a professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences who studies the psychobiology of eating and weight regulation.

How can you get a woman to become more receptive to romance? Feed her!

Michael Lowe, a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and alumna Alice Ely ’14 collaborated on research that shows women’s brains respond more to romantic cues on a full stomach than on an empty one.

The study, published online in the journal Appetite, found results that are contrary to previous studies that showed people typically demonstrate greater sensitivity to rewarding stimuli like food, money and drugs when they are hungry, says Ely.

“We found that young women both with and without a history of dieting had greater brain activation in response to romantic pictures in reward-related neural regions after having eaten than when hungry,” says Ely. “This data suggests that eating may prime or sensitize young women to rewards beyond food. It also supports a shared neurocircuitry for food and sex.”

The latest finding, based on a small pilot study, grew from earlier work looking at whether the brain response to food differed significantly in women who were historical dieters versus those who had never dieted.

That study, published in Obesity in 2014, found that the brains of women with a history of dieting responded more dramatically to highly palatable food cues when fed as compared to women who had never dieted or who were currently dieting.