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

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Train your brain to resist sweets. It’s a computer program developed by Philadelphia researchers, and it’s helping 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 exclaimed. 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 recalled. Emily says she was able to temporarily break the addiction with a variety of diets over the years, but nothing really worked.

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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 6 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 explained. “Practicing it to a picture of the food translates to practicing it to the real food,” he added.

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.

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

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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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One Comment

  1. kevin says:

    I crushed have a bag of oreos while I read this.

  2. Dana Kenney says:

    I am intrigued by this research and potential for curbing the sweet tooth and resulting in improved overall well-being. I live in the Lehigh Valley, a little out of the 25 mile distance requirement to participate in the study, but I’d be willing to travel. Wondering if there is any way to take advantage of this program now, even while in the research stage. Fascinating approach with much promise, I think. drk, age 57

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