Well, apart from the widely accepted notion that the taste is extraordinary, there are specific scientific reasons for why humans crave chocolate. As we eat the chocolate, our brain releases chemicals in response. Neurotransmitters, largely dopamine, which you may recognize as the “feel good” receptor, is released throughout your chocolate binge in brain regions such as the frontal lobe, hypothalamus, and hippocampus (Albers, 2014). It’s not just chocolate that causes this release of dopamine; whenever you are engaging in an activity that you take pleasure in, be it your Netflix addiction, sex, or laughing with a friend, dopamine is released.
The reward circuit that receives the release of dopamine in the frontal lobe associates positive emotions with your enjoyable experience, and in turn, creates a memory of this experience thanks to the help of the hippocampus (Albers, 2014). When food, specifically, is involved, the hypothalamus collects the nutrient information for hunger and satisfaction indicators in the future (Albers, 2014). Therefore, it is the malleability of the brain that keeps you coming back for more! Your brain learns the positive association with chocolate and then every time you get a whiff of that delectable chocolate smell or walk by one of those devilish chocolate factories in the mall, the craving ensues! With Valentine’s Day and love in the air, February specifically can bring about these cravings of chocolate. If you enjoy chocolate and give in to these cravings by let’s say, stuffing as many cookies into your mouth as you can and drowning yourself in hot chocolate (just us here in advising? okay), your dopamine response is actually reinforced and strengthened. So do yourself a favor and let the hippocampus bring about those wonderful memories of bathing in chocolate this month.