Optimal Waist-to-Hip Ratios in Women (an Hourglass Figure) Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men

Secondary sexual characteristics convey information about reproductive potential:

- Facial symmetry, masculinity, and shoulder-to-hip ratio convey information about reproductive/genetic quality in males.

- Waist-to-hip-ratio (WHR) is a phenotypic cue to fertility, fecundity, neurodevelopmental resources in offspring, and overall health, and is indicative of “good genes” in women.

Researchers in this study used fMRI to show activation in male brain reward centers in response to WHR with redistributed body fat and similar body mass index (BMI). Brain activation to observed in bilateral orbital frontal cortex. Changes in WHR revealed activation in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area associated with reward processing and decision-making.

These findings suggest that an hourglass figure (i.e., an optimal WHR) activates brain centers that drive appetitive sociality/attention toward females that represent the highest-quality reproductive partners.

Platek SM, Singh D (2010) Optimal Waist-to-Hip Ratios in Women Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men. PLoS ONE 5(2): e9042. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009042
Image source: openclipart.org, public domain.

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