Increased food choice-evoked brain activation in adolescents with excess weight: Relationship with subjective craving and behavior

Appetite. 2018 Dec 1;131:7-13. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.08.031. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

Abstract

Objective: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess brain regions associated with food choices between appetizing (i.e., high sugar, high fat) and plain food in adolescents with excess weight and those with normal weight. The associations between choice-evoked brain activation and subjective food craving and behavioral food choices were also evaluated.

Methods: Seventy-three adolescents (aged 14-19 years), classified into excess weight (n = 38) or normal weight (n = 39) groups, participated in the study. We used a food-choice fMRI task, between appetizing and plain food, to analyse brain activation differences between groups. Afterwards, participants assessed their "craving" for each food presented in the scanner.

Results: Adolescents with excess weight showed higher brain activation in frontal, striatal, insular and mid-temporal regions during choices between appetizing and standard food cues. This pattern of activations correlated with behavioral food choices and subjective measures of craving.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that adolescents with excess weight have greater food choice-related brain reactivity in reward-related regions involved in motivational and emotional responses to food. Increased activation in these regions is generally associated with craving, and increased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is specifically associated with appetizing food choices among adolescents with excess weight, which may suggest greater conflict in these decisions. These overweight- and craving-associated patterns of brain activation may be relevant to decision-making about food consumption.

Keywords: Addiction; Adolescence; Appetizing; High-calorie; Obesity; Reward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Craving*
  • Cues
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Overweight / psychology*