Relation of obesity to consummatory and anticipatory food reward

Physiol Behav. 2009 Jul 14;97(5):551-60. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.03.020. Epub 2009 Mar 27.


This report reviews findings from studies that have investigated whether abnormalities in reward from food intake and anticipated food intake increase risk for obesity. Self-report and behavioral data suggest that obese relative to lean individuals show elevated anticipatory and consummatory food reward. Brain imaging studies suggest that obese relative to lean individuals show greater activation of the gustatory cortex (insula/frontal operculum) and oral somatosensory regions (parietal operculum and Rolandic operculum) in response to anticipated intake and consumption of palatable foods. Yet, data also suggest that obese relative to lean individuals show less activation in the dorsal striatum in response to consumption of palatable foods and reduced striatal D2 dopamine receptor density. Emerging prospective data also suggest that abnormal activation in these brain regions increases risk for future weight gain and that genotypes associated with lowered dopamine signaling amplify these predictive effects. Results imply that individuals who show greater activation in the gustatory cortex and somatosensory regions in response to anticipation and consumption of food, but who show weaker activation in the striatum during food intake, may be at risk for overeating, particularly those at genetic risk for lowered dopamine receptor signaling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / metabolism
  • Obesity* / physiopathology
  • Obesity* / psychology
  • Reward*


  • Dopamine