18/10/2010 06:47 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Does Looking At Superslim Models Change Our Brains?

Flickr, austinevan

The debate about skinny models and celebrities and whether or not they affect the rest of the female population is one that's not going away any day soon. This time the argument has been resurrected by a leading psychologist who claims photos of underweight women actually affect our brains.

Dr Aric Sigman, writing in the journal The Biologist, claims the idea that images of thin models in the media has, until now, been seen as a psychological or cultural problem. But he said it should be treated as a medical one, since tests show changes occur in healthy women's brains when they're exposed to photos of not just thing but also fat women.

Dr Sigman cites tests involving brain scans that show signs of activity in the medial prefontal cortex - or the part of the brain associated with unhappiness and self-loathing - when women are shown pictures of both thin and overweight females.

In another test, Dr Sigman describes how women were shown a picture of themselves that had been manipulated to make them look fatter. This, he claims, triggered activity in part of the brain called the amygdala, which is involved in emotions such as fear and anxiety. No kidding.

The same type of brain reaction happened when the women volunteers were shown words such as 'obesity' and 'fat'.

But surely it's not the words themselves - or even the skinny models and celebs - that are the problem? They can't be responsible for how our brains react to them, can they?

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