Drive for consumption, craving, and connectivity in the visual cortex during the imagery of desired food

Front Aging Neurosci. 2013 Nov 27:5:77. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2013.00077. eCollection 2013.


There is considerable interest in understanding food cravings given the obesogenic environment of Western Society. In this paper we examine how the imagery of palatable foods affects cravings and functional connectivity in the visual cortex for people who differ on the power of food scale (PFS). Fourteen older, overweight/obese adults came to our laboratory on two different occasions. Both times they ate a controlled breakfast meal and then were restricted from eating for 2.5 h prior to scanning. On 1 day they consumed a BOOST(®) liquid meal after the period of food restriction, whereas on the other day they only consumed water (NO BOOST(®) condition). After these manipulations, they had an fMRI scan in which they were asked to image both neutral objects and their favorite snack foods; they also completed visual analog scales for craving, hunger, and the vividness of the imagery experiences. Irrespective of the BOOST(®) manipulation, we observed marked increases in food cravings when older, overweight/obese adults created images of favorite foods in their minds as opposed to creating an image of neutral objects; however, the increase in food craving following the imagery of desired food was more pronounced among those scoring high than low on the PFS. Furthermore, local efficiency within the visual cortex when imaging desired food was higher for those scoring high as compared to low on the PFS. The active imagery of desired foods seemed to have overpowered the BOOST(®) manipulation when evaluating connectivity in the visual cortex.

Keywords: food craving; network science; older adults; power of food scale; visual cortex.