Difference in neural reactivity to taste stimuli and visual food stimuli in neural circuits of ingestive behavior

Brain Imaging Behav. 2020 Oct;14(5):1395-1405. doi: 10.1007/s11682-019-00048-0.


Brain responses to sight and taste of foods have been examined to provide insights into neural substrates of ingestive behavior. Since the brain response to food images and taste stimuli are overlapped in neural circuits of eating behavior, each food cue would influence eating behavior in a partly similar manner. However, because few studies have examined the differences in brain responses to each food cue, the variation in neural sensitivity to these food cues or specific brain response to each food cue remain unclear. We thus performed a repeated measures functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to examine brain responses to the image and taste of various foods for direct comparisons of the brain response to each food cue. Thirty-five healthy adolescents (age: 14-19 years [mean: 17 years], males = 16, females = 19) underwent two fMRI scans, a food image fMRI scan for measurement of brain response to food images, and a taste stimulus fMRI scan for measurement of brain response to taste stimuli. Food images evoked brain responses in the visual information processing regions, anterior insula, striatum, and pre-/postcentral gyrus compared to taste stimuli, whereas taste stimuli induced brain responses in the mid-insula and limbic regions compared to food images. These results imply that food images tend to evoke brain responses in regions associated with food reward anticipation and food choice, whereas taste stimuli tend to induce brain responses in regions involved in assigning existent incentive values to foods based on existent energy homeostatic status.

Keywords: Functional magnetic resonance imaging; Ingestive behavior; Taste food cues; Visual food cues.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cues
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Reward
  • Taste*
  • Young Adult