Uncontrolled eating in healthy women has limited influence on food cue reactivity and food-related inhibitory control

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  • Maud Grol
  • Luis Cásedas
  • Danna Oomen
  • Desiree B. Spronk
  • Elaine Fox

Uncontrolled eating—in the general population—is characterized by overeating, hedonic hunger and being drawn towards palatable foods. Theoretically, it is the result of a strong food reward signal in relation to a poor ability to exert inhibitory control. How food consumption influences inhibitory control and food cue sensitivity, and how this relates to the continued urge to eat, remains unclear. We used fMRI in order to investigate the neural mechanism underlying food cue reactivity and food-specific response inhibition (go-nogo task), by comparing women reporting high (n = 21) versus low/average (n = 19) uncontrolled eating across two sessions: during an inter-meal state and after consumption of a high-caloric snack. We found no effects of individual differences in uncontrolled eating, food consumption, nor their interaction on food cue reactivity. Differences in uncontrolled eating and food consumption did interact in modulating activity in an occipital-parietal network, extending from left lateral superior occipital cortex to visual cortex, cuneal cortex, and precuneus during response inhibition of non-food stimuli, areas previously associated with successful nogo-vs. go-trials. Yet, behavioural performance on the go-nogo task was not modulated by uncontrolled eating nor food consumption. Women with a low/average tendency for uncontrolled eating may need more cognitive resources to support successful response inhibition of non-food stimuli during food ‘go’ blocks in an inter-meal state, whereas women with a high tendency for uncontrolled eating showed this after food consumption. However, considering current and previous findings, it seems that individual differences in uncontrolled eating in healthy women have only limited influence on food cue reactivity and food-related inhibitory control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105767
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme ( FP7/2007–2013 )/ERC grant agreement no: [ 324176 ] to EF. MG is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship of the Research Foundation – Flanders ( FWO2017/PDO/201 ). DO is supported by a doctoral fellowship of the Ghent University Special Research Fund ( BOF18/DOC/348 ). Funding sources had no involvement in study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the report, nor in the decision making to submit the article for publication. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Food consumption, Food cue reactivity, Hedonic hunger, Inhibitory control, Superior occipital gyrus, Uncontrolled eating
  • Psychology