Brain Responses to High-Calorie Visual Food Cues in Individuals with Normal-Weight or Obesity: An Activation Likelihood Estimation Meta-Analysis

Brain Sci. 2021 Nov 30;11(12):1587. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11121587.


Overconsumption of high-calorie or unhealthy foods commonly leads to weight gain. Understanding people's neural responses to high-calorie food cues might help to develop better interventions for preventing or reducing overeating and weight gain. In this review, we conducted a coordinate-based meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of viewing high-calorie food cues in both normal-weight people and people with obesity. Electronic databases were searched for relevant articles, retrieving 59 eligible studies containing 2410 unique participants. The results of an activation likelihood estimation indicate large clusters in a range of structures, including the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), amygdala, insula/frontal operculum, culmen, as well as the middle occipital gyrus, lingual gyrus, and fusiform gyrus. Conjunction analysis suggested that both normal-weight people and people with obesity activated OFC, supporting that the two groups share common neural substrates of reward processing when viewing high-calorie food cues. The contrast analyses did not show significant activations when comparing obesity with normal-weight. Together, these results provide new important evidence for the neural mechanism underlying high-calorie food cues processing, and new insights into common and distinct brain activations of viewing high-calorie food cues between people with obesity and normal-weight people.

Keywords: high-calorie food cues; meta-analysis; neuroimaging; normal-weight; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review