The way to her heart? Response to romantic cues is dependent on hunger state and dieting history: An fMRI pilot study

Appetite. 2015 Dec;95:126-31. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.06.022. Epub 2015 Jul 3.


Normal weight historical dieters (HDs) are prone to future weight gain, and show higher levels of brain activation in reward-related regions after having eaten than nondieters (NDs) in response to food stimuli (Ely, Childress, Jagannathan, & Lowe, 2014), a similar pattern to that seen in obesity. We hypothesized that HDs are differentially sensitive after eating to rewards in general, and thus extended prior findings by comparing the same groups' brain activation when viewing romantic pictures compared to neutral stimuli while being scanned in a blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI paradigm in a fasted and fed state. Results show that 1) in fed relative to fasted conditions, both HDs and NDs were more responsive in areas related to reward and 2) in HDs, greater fed versus fasted activation extended to areas linked to perception and goal-directed behavior. HDs relative to NDs were more responsive to romantic cues in the superior frontal gyrus when fasted and the middle temporal gyrus when fed. This pattern of response is similar to HDs' activation when viewing highly palatable food cues, and is consistent with research showing overlapping brain-based responses to sex, drugs and food.

Keywords: Dieting; Reward; Romantic cues; fMRI.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cues*
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reward
  • Young Adult