Logos 'brand' youthful minds

Children's brains are found to light up at the sight of fast-food logos

Roger Dobson
Saturday 22 September 2012 22:51
Comments

A generation of young people is growing up with the logos of fast-food companies "branded" on their brains. Scientists say scans of children show the pleasure and appetite centres of their brains light up when they are shown advertising images such as the McDonald's logo.

The study reveals that the same areas do not respond to well-known logos that are not to do with food. It suggests fast-food firms are tapping into the reward areas of the brain, and that these develop before the regions that provide self-control, leading to unhealthy choices.

"Research has shown children are more likely to choose those foods with familiar logos," said Dr Amanda Bruce, who led the study. "That is concerning because the majority of foods marketed to children are unhealthy, calorifically-dense foods high in sugars, fat, and sodium."

The study, conducted at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, selected 120 popular food and non-food brands, including McDonald's and Rice Krispies, and BMW and FedEx. They used a type of MRI scanner – functional magnetic resonance imaging – which homes in on changes in blood flow: when areas of the brain become more active, blood flow increases.

Scans were carried out on children aged 10 to 14 as they were exposed to 60 food and 60 non-food logos. The results showed the food logos triggered increased activity in areas of the brain known to be involved in reward processing and in driving and controlling appetite.

The finding comes in the wake of research which showed advertising had a pronounced effect on children's eating habits. Children who tasted two identical burgers, one in a plain box and one labelled McDonald's, preferred the latter.

"The theory is the increase in risk-taking behaviour in adolescence is attributed to uneven development in brain regions associated with cognitive control and emotional drive," said Dr Bruce. "The brains of children are 'imprinted' with food logos. Without the necessary inhibitory processes to aid in decision-making, youth are particularly susceptible to making poor choices about what to eat."

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in