A Weird Neuroscientific Explanation for Why We Love Cheetos

Orange cheese dust. That wholly unnatural neon stuff that gloms onto your fingers when you’re mindlessly snacking on chips or doodles. The stuff you don’t think about until you realize you’ve smeared it on your shirt or couch cushions—and then keep on eating anyway, despite your better intentions. Orange cheese dust is probably not the first thing you think of when talking about how the brain functions, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that makes NeuroFocus, and neuromarketing in general, such a potentially huge and growing business. In 2008, Frito-Lay hired NeuroFocus to look into Cheetos, the junk-food staple. After scanning the brains of a carefully chosen group of consumers, the NeuroFocus team discovered that the icky coating triggers an unusually powerful response in the brain: a sense of giddy subversion that consumers enjoy over the messiness of the product. In other words, the sticky stuff is what makes those snacks such a sticky brand. Frito-Lay leveraged that information into its advertising campaign for Cheetos, which has made the most of the mess. For its efforts, NeuroFocus earned a Grand Ogilvy award for advertising research, given out by the Advertising Research Foundation, for “demonstrating the most successful use of research in the creation of superior advertising that achieves a critical business objective.”

Source: NeuroFocus Uses Neuromarketing To Hack Your Brain

A lengthly but interesting read about MRI and EEG testing to determine what we really desire.  They don’t seem to know why, only that the dopamine must flow.

Does Being Anesthetized Count as Sleep?

There is a small amount of similarity in terms of electrical activity, but the two processes are chemically distinct.  The electrical activity is only similiar in that it comes from the brain and therefore is recognisable as waveforms – you lose all REM sleep while under anaesthesia.  Sleep is a complex state that is not simply just reduced activity. Sleep includes complex processing by various areas of the brain, possibly enhancing memory storage and “cleaning” junk, other parts are periods of reduced activity.

The real difference however comes from the surgical procedure you are likely receiving, the stress, cortisol, sympathetic activation produce a vastly different physiological state to natural sleep.

It should be noted that during minor procedures (i.e dental surgery, etc) you are not actually “knocked out”. Usually you’re put under what’s called “twilight sedation” in which you are mostly conscious and responsive, but your memory is suppressed. This enables you to be responsive and cooperative with the surgeon, such as moving or opening your mouth when needed. Generally you’re not fully awake, but sort of sleepy/extremely relaxed. Pain killers are administered separately so you’re not being tortured.

Do people Snore while Anesthetized?

Snoring is just partial airway collapse due to reduced tone of the muscles holding up the soft tissue in the area. Whether that reduced tone is due to sleep or anesthetics, the end outcome (noises and obstruction) will be the same.  Snoring with an airway in is probably a bad sign, and I would be thinking about changing the airway.

Consider that if somebody got drunk and starts snoring – that doesn’t mean they’re sleeping, they could also be passed out from alcohol.  They should be placed on their side in recovery position, monitored, and drawn on with permanent marker.  That’s just basic triage 😉

More Detail about Sleep:

Sleep is divided up into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) & Non-REM sleep. we spend 80% of sleep in NREM & 20% in REM. Different phases of sleep can be identified on electroencephalogram (EEG) which when awake displays high frequency, low amplitude beta & gamma waves.

REM sleep is characterised by a disorganised EEG similar to the waking state, rapid jerking eye movements, increased blood pressure & heart rate, nonsensical dreams (“I went down a water slide with Santa”) & loss of muscle tone, presumably so we don’t act out our dreams.

NREM sleep has four phases:

  1. Drowsy
  2. Established
  3. Transitionary
  4. Deep

EEG waves become progressively slower and larger (alpha, theta, then delta waves). We spend 50% of sleep in phase 2 NREM. Phase 4 is characterised by difficult rousing and organised dreams (“I have a meeting to get to tomorrow morning”). Deep NREM sleep is also the phase associated with parasomnias (e.g. sleepwalking, sleep talking), night terrors and bed wetting in children. The EEG of anaesthesia varies depending on the agents used but most resembles the synchronised low frequency, high amplitude wave of phase 3/4 NREM.

Bonus: Can We Sneeze When We Sleep?

The trigeminal motoneuron pools that mediate the sneeze reflex are inhibited during NREM sleep and are actively suppressed during REM sleep as part of atonia. Which means it is much more difficult to sneeze during NREM sleep and nearly impossible in REM (without also causing waking).

Brains: Reshaped by Touchscreen Use

You know what they say about big thumbs… 😉

Extensive use of smartphone touchscreens is changing the sensory relationship between our brains and our thumbs, a study published in Current Biology has revealed.

…”What this means for us neuroscientists is that the digital history we carry in our pockets has an enormous amount of information on how we use our fingertips (and more),” explains one of the study’s authors, Arko Ghosh.Linking this “digital history” to brain activity was a case of using electroencephalography (EEG) to examine how regular smartphone users responded in tests compared to those who use older-style feature phones. Each set of phone users had their brain response to various mechanical touches recorded, with a focus on the thumb, forefinger and middle finger.

Source: Our brains are being ‘continuously reshaped’ by smartphone use

We’ve known for a long time that your brain specializes and you gain greater sensitivity when you repeat tasks or increase usage of a part of your body.  Braille is the classic example. Most people would have a hard time discriminating the individual raised dots without wiggling their finger on each one (and some people not even then), but once you learn and practice your fingers can read them at a fairly decent speed.  Other examples include: martial arts, yoga, artistry and artisanry (blacksmithing, masons, tilers, etc), athletes…

Some would argue that this is evolutionary.  But sperm DNA is continuosly modified, so men pass on different things at different ages. Eggs are all formed before birth.  This is why a theory exists that cancers/etc might occurring in children whose fathers are older.  Secondly, we have lots in our bodies which serves no purpose, but it wasn’t phased out completely.  IE: the appendix.  Not only it doesn’t help, but it represents a potential cause of death in some cases. We have evolved not to need it/ use it, but we didn’t get rid of it.  Similarly – the tail bone.  Some do have a vestigial tail.  Don’t send me pics, I’m only interested if the tail is prehensile.  Epigenetics is the field working to explain what you are imparting on your children.

The real take-away from the abstract is the suggestion that your brain increases activity to your thumbs, but only while you’re using a touchscreen (smartphone, tablet, etc).