Readers reply: if the brain uses the most calories of any organ, can you think yourself thin? | Neuroscience

If the brain uses the most calories of any organ, is it possible to burn fat by thinking really hard? Brian Ayack, Aylesbury

Send new questions to nq@theguardian.com.

reader reply

Yep, think about your bank balance; that should save a lot of weight.

Maybe if you think you've eaten and you haven't. It would be helpful to know whether the brain's calorie expenditure varies significantly or is fairly constant depending on the level of mental activity. Is the brain really the most energy-hungry organ? Other candidates include liver/spleen considered a system. mean solipsist

Well, anxiety and worry prime your body for action and burn calories. You may lose weight from worrying too much, but you may also end up drinking to calm yourself down. So you'll have a thin brain and a fat body. Desi 121

The brain is the most homeostatic organ, so a significant portion of those calories are used to keep it warm. If “thinking really hard” does burn more calories than not thinking, the end result will be calories — and those calories will mostly replace those used to maintain temperature.So no, “thinking really hard” won't be in additional Calories, even if some are used in slightly different ways. shot put

Ah, you made a serious mistake there.you need to think quickly. DDT

Thanks for asking; I'm really relieved. Gordon Lowry

I've been thinking about this topic for a long time, ever since reading an ESPN article about the staggering energy demands of the world's leading chess players during a multi-day tournament. To the naive observer, the contestants are sedentary for most or all of their days, but research shows they burn thousands more calories per day than they would if they were hanging out on the couch watching Gilmore Girls . There have been reports of players losing five kilograms or more in just a few days during chess matches. Apparently, Fabiano Caruana can drop from 135 pounds to under 120 pounds during the 10-day competition. emma hate

No. Source: Despite all the thinking I did, I got a degree in math and got fatter and… really lucky

kind of. I suffer from depression and ruminate endlessly. Lost a lot of weight very quickly. maralai

This is a question I asked myself and did some research. The answer is: no. A few extra calories burned won't make any difference. Nina 1414

I know someone who thinks very deeply, and his math is at graduate level. He consumed a lot of energy while thinking, and the top of his head started to heat up! He is very thin. green and now gray

Now let's think about it, think about lead weights and heavy metal songs. Fast! Bathroom scales. Ok, noticed, now focus on lighthearted, hydrogen atoms and soufflés. Flushed back to the bathroom, no difference at all. Then it occurred to me that you can't burn fat without a wick, it feels like it's all over the top of your head, no so the answer is no. Bricklayer Options

nice try. Should lose a few grams. Ethel Frieda

I have a friend who is diabetic and he is very knowledgeable about blood sugar. He will tell you that watching different movies burns different amounts of calories (I remember more thrillers than romantic comedies) but exams burn more calories than any movie. So yes! Jane's paw

In terms of energy use, the answer seems to be no, since the energy expenditure of the brain is almost constant and it shifts our attention when we focus on the different parts of the brain that are being used. This may be why we tend to lose situational awareness when performing certain tasks. silly

Interestingly, I would say no. I find it easier to manage my weight when I'm working on a simple project. I suspect that when I'm having a hard time, more of the calorie burn is offset by sitting for long periods of time and me not paying attention to nutrition for a while. If there is a larger burn, it must be very small. left handed girl

Well, of course I lose weight when I'm having a high anxiety period, but that's because my stomach is knotted up and I can't eat. Now I'm content again and the weight is back, maybe a little too much.I hope that I can consciously I lost weight with my brain, but I seem to have my own ideas! Dunnock_Mk2

Reference to Shakespeare and Julius Caesar: “Yond Cassius looks thin and hungry / Such men are dangerous, they think too much.” Margaret N7

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