Caloric deprivation increases responsivity of attention and reward brain regions to intake, anticipated intake, and images of palatable foods

Neuroimage. 2013 Feb 15:67:322-30. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.11.028. Epub 2012 Nov 28.


Dietary restraint theoretically increases risk for binge eating, but prospective and experimental studies have produced contradictory findings, apparently because dietary restraint scales do not identify individuals who are reducing caloric intake. Yet, experimentally manipulated caloric deprivation increases responsivity of brain regions implicated in attention and reward to food images, which may contribute to binge eating. We tested whether self-imposed acute and longer-term caloric restriction increases responsivity of attention and reward regions to images, anticipated receipt, and receipt of palatable food using functional magnetic resonance imaging among female and male adolescents (Study 1 n=34; Study 2 n=51/81). Duration of acute caloric deprivation correlated positively with activation in regions implicated in attention, reward, and motivation in response to images, anticipated receipt, and receipt of palatable food (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, and precentral gyrus respectively). Youth in a longer-term negative energy balance likewise showed greater activation in attention (anterior cingulate cortex, ventral medial prefrontal cortex), visual processing (superior visual cortex), reward (caudate) and memory (hippocampus) regions in response to receipt and anticipated receipt of palatable food relative to those in neutral or positive energy balance. Results confirm that self-imposed caloric deprivation increases responsivity of attention, reward, and motivation regions to food, which may explain why caloric deprivation weight loss diets typically do not produce lasting weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Appetite / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Caloric Restriction / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reward*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*